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Andean Health Agency visits PAHO/WHO Headquarters in Washington DC

“Since its establishment 40 years ago, the Andean Health Organization (ORAS) has made every effort to keep health the strategic point of focus and work of the Organization’s member countries, and to make headway on specific health policies,” noted its Executive Secretary, Dr. Caroline Chang, in her presentation this past June 28 at the headquarters of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), in Washington, D.C.

“This is one of the oldest organizations of its kind in the Americas” and proof that the Andean countries “have continued to maintain close relations in the field of health, always willing to step up their efforts and never retreat,” commented Dr. Mirta Roses, Director of PAHO/WHO.

Upon presenting the “strategic lines of action of the ORAS,” Dr. Chang explained that the Andean Health Organization-Hipólito Unanue Agreement was established in 1971 by its member countries—Bolivia Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela—which have actively participated in the Organization since that time through their ministers of health. Dr. Chang underscored that the ORAS has always envisaged health as “as a bridge for peace” and based on that perspective, the Organization’s mission is “to harmonize and formulate policies, to facilitate opportunities for the sharing of experiences, and to design strategies in response to common health problems.”

In this regard, Dr. Chang explained that the ORAS member countries have made significant progress on policies with respect to drug access, assessment of health technologies, and the prevention of disability, but that more work is needed on other issues. She pointed out that ORAS currently has a strategic plan that provides for work on issues such as the epidemiological shield, access to drugs, human resources, the determinants of health, and universal health systems in their countries.

Dr. Chang also noted that the ORAS has worked together with PAHO/WHO on issues linked to chronic non-communicable diseases or NCDs (e.g., cancer, diabetes, obesity, lung disease, and heart disease). She emphasized that the ORAS member countries have already developed the Andean Plan against NCDs, with a view to establishing specific policies to guide its work, following the upcoming UN High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases, which in September will bring together Heads of State and Government from throughout the world to discuss NCDs and their impact on development.

Upon the conclusion of Dr. Chang’s presentation, Dr. Roses noted that “there are very good opportunities to advance the Organization’s mandates” through the work of the ORAS. The Executive Secretary of the ORAS was accompanied on this visit to PAHO/WHO by the ORAS Deputy Secretary, Dr. Ricardo Cañizares.

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