Articles and Opinion pieces by Dr. Carissa F. Etienne

Director Emeritus Dr. Carissa F. Etienne was director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Regional Director for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO) from February 2012 to January 2023.

Bringing Public Health to the Digital Age

The COVID-19 pandemic has left an indelible mark on our lives and on our societies. It has also reinforced the power and potential of digital technologies to advance public health.

Indeed, countries that leveraged digital innovations were better off.

Places with centralized disease reporting could track the spread of COVID and warn municipalities when it was time to adjust public health measures or reinforce hospital capacity. While countries with electronic medical records and digital certificates had an easier time rolling out COVID vaccines and tailoring outreach efforts to vulnerable and at-risk populations.

Published in: La Prensa, Panamá, La Opinión, Colombia, , El Universal, México, Proceso, Honduras, La Prensa, Nicaragua, Página Siete, Bolivia, El Deber, Bolivia, Stabroek News, Guyana, Discover Monserrat, Monserrat, Dominica News, Dominica, Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaica, Listin Diario, Dominican Republica, Trinidad Guardian, Trinidad and Tobago (printed), The Grenadian Voice, Grenada.

Emergency Preparedness: A Shared Effort

This editorial features a special supplement containing articles with a representative perspective of emergency preparedness in different parts of Latin America. The articles cover three main topics: the impact of the pandemic on countries, the response from the perspective of essential public health functions, and the digital transformation required to improve the resilience of health systems. To facilitate access to the information in this supplement, all articles are published in English in the American Journal of Public Health and in Spanish in the Pan American Journal of Public Health.

Summit of the Americas: Our region must take a longer view of public health spending.

 “Never before has the case for investing in health been made so clearly, and the consequences of under-investment been rendered so starkly”, wrote Carissa. F Etienne, PAHO Director in an op-ed published at The Hill, as the world leaders gathered for the Ninth Summit of the Americas in the United States in June 2022.

“We find ourselves at a pivotal moment, in the ongoing response to the pandemic, but also in the history of our region’s public health. Above all else, that history, and our future, will be shaped by how much governments choose to spend on health, and whether they make those investments wisely”, Dr. Etienne penned.

Diabetes and the Who Model List of Essential Medicines

In her correspondence piece “Diabetes and the Who Model List of Essential Medicines” published in The Lancet (Diabetes & Endocrinology) in January 2022, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne looks at a pressing issue for the 62 million people with diabetes in the Americas: access to insulin.

WHO’s 2021 decision to include diabetes in its Model List of Essential Medicines has the potential to expand treatment options but only if the dual challenges of high prices and low access can be resolved.

Dr. Etienne looks at how this might be achieved, including through PAHO’s own Revolving Fund.

COVID-19 has revealed a pandemic of inequality

In her opinion article, “COVID-19 has revealed a pandemic of inequality” published in Nature Medicine Magazine on 17 January 2022, Dr. Etienne explores how pervasive inequality in the Americas has fueled the COVID-19 pandemic.

With 40% of global COVID-19 cases reported in the Americas, a region with just 13% of the world’s population, unequal access to health resources, including vaccines has been one of the key drivers of the pandemic in the region.

In her article, Dr. Etienne looks at how inequities, particularly regarding gender and ethnicity, prevent universal health coverage, and a puts a spotlight on heath equity as an essential component of the fight against COVID-19.

COVID-19: What will it take to protect the Americas?

In an OpEd published in 17 Latin America and Caribbean countries ahead of the G20 meeting in Rome in October 2021, Dr. Etienne calls for stronger commitment and investment to boost the region’s capacity to manufacture vaccines.

Drawing on the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Director says countries need to face the daunting reality that limited supplies and overreliance on imported health products – including lifesaving vaccines – left the region vulnerable.

Urgent action is required to bring vaccines closer to where they are needed, and Dr. Etienne argues this will only be achieved with lasting commitment from governments, the active engagement of global funding partners and support from the private sector to share technical knowledge and patents to diversify global production.

Clarín, Argentina: Covid: ¿Qué se necesita para proteger a las Américas? (

(*Published in Spanish in el Clarín, Argentina; La Nación, Costa Rica; Prensa Libre, Guatemala; El Heraldo, Honduras; El Universal, México; La Prensa, Panamá; El Observador, Uruguay; El Universal, Venezuela)

Jamaica Gleaner: COVID-19: What will it take to protect the Americas? (

(**Published in English in Amandala, Belize; Stabroek News, Guyana; Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaica; The Nassau Guardian, Bahamas; Dominica News, Dominica; The Grenada Voice, Grenada; The Vincentian, St Vincent and the Grenadines; De West newspaper, Suriname; Trinidad Guardian, Trinidad and Tobago)

Dr. Etienne at her desk