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PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne met 7 February with Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza of the Organization of American States (OAS) to discuss cooperation in strengthening health and sustainable development goals on the political agenda of the Americas. 

As the specialized health agency of the Inter-American System, PAHO has a long history of working with the OAS. Recent examples include collaboration on exploring alternative approaches to fighting drug trafficking and reducing drug demand, PAHO’s participation in the Summit of the Americas process as a member of the Joint Summit Working Group, and PAHO’s input to health-related sections in the proposed Social Charter of the Americas.

Dr. Etienne said she hoped the two organizations would continue working together in these areas but also in new ones, particularly in helping to shape the post-2015 development agenda to ensure that health continues to be viewed as a critical component of sustainable development and that the needs of vulnerable groups are addressed.

“We have met most of the Millennium Development Goals, except maternal mortality, but we know there are pockets in our countries where the MDGs have not been met. We need to keep these unmet challenges on the political agenda as we move forward,” said Dr. Etienne. She added that “universal health coverage is the umbrella” for PAHO’s efforts in these areas and her top priority as she begins her term as PAHO Director.

Another area of potential PAHO-OAS collaboration is mobilizing multi-sector action for health, involving ministries of finance, development, the environment, and others as well as private sector and civil society partners. This work requires more effective health diplomacy, said Dr. Etienne.

“Health diplomacy is a growing area of focus for global health and for PAHO,” she said. “To be good diplomats for health, our staff need to learn new skills. We can learn from your best practices; diplomacy is what the OAS does.”


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