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PAHO’s newly installed Director, Carissa F. Etienne, met on Feb. 5 with Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, to discuss expanded collaboration between the two institutions, which have both played central roles in promoting public health in the Americas since the early 20th century.

Dr. Etienne outlined her priorities as she begins her new term, saying that promoting universal health coverage in the countries of the Americas will be her “number-one priority.” “This is the grand idea, and now we need to make it a reality. We’ve done a lot at the global and regional levels, now we need to move to the country level.” 

She said initial efforts in this regard will include assessing progress toward universal health coverage in different countries, examining PAHO’s technical cooperation in this area, identifying and targeting vulnerable populations, creating a network of expertise to look at financial aspects and core benefit packages adjusted to country realities, and making recommendations for strengthening the Organization’s role in advancing universal coverage in its member countries.

Before becoming PAHO Director, Dr. Etienne was the World Health Organization’s Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Services. In this capacity, she had chief responsibility for the production of the 2010 World Health Report, Health systems financing: the path to universal coverage, which received financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation. 

Dr. Rodin said the Rockefeller Foundation also views universal health coverage as one of the most important public health challenges today.

Other priority areas discussed included reorganizing health systems based on primary health care models, the growing epidemic of noncommunicable diseases, public-private partnerships for health, and the challenge of aging populations in the Americas.

PAHO and the Rockefeller Foundation have collaborated in areas including gender equity, mobile health technologies and, most recently, an initiative to develop case studies of successful efforts in the Americas to mobilize inter-sectoral action for health promotion, in preparation for the World Conference on Health Promotion in Finland (Helsinki 2013). 

Both leaders agreed to continue strengthening their collaborative efforts in support of universal health coverage and promoting the development of public health in the Americas by engaging all relevant stakeholders. 

The Rockefeller Foundation, founded in 1913, is currently celebrating its centennial.

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