Launch - Meet Pahola: PAHO's First Digital Health Specialist on Alcohol Use

Launch - Meet Pahola: PAHO's First Digital Health Specialist on Alcohol Use

The launch of Pahola: PAHO's First Digital Health Specialist on Alcohol Use” was hosted by PAHO on Friday, 19 November 2021, from 10:00 am to 11:00 am (EST).






Alcohol consumption is one of the leading risk factors for ill-health globally and in the Americas. Of the approximately 107 million people globally who have an alcohol use disorder (AUD), fewer than 10% receive appropriate care due to numerous barriers, including fear of treatment, privacy concerns, stigma, time conflicts, and limited availability of treatment.

In 2016, 27.5% of the people living in the Americas lived in a country where the treatment coverage for AUD was unknown, and another 39.4% lived in a country where less than 10% of persons who need treatment for an AUD received it. Alcohol treatment services, including screening and brief interventions in primary health care, have not been scaled up in most countries.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, not only has there been widespread dissemination of misinformation related to alcohol use, but also an exponential increase in alcohol sales online coupled with home deliveries. In contrast, alcohol treatment services were disrupted or stopped altogether. There is a need for alternatives to support people who wish to stop or reduce their drinking so that the large treatment gap for alcohol use disorders in the Americas can be decreased.

A potential, cost-effective, tool to increase access to screening, brief interventions, and other services for the treatment of alcohol use disorders, is through the utilization of digital humans designed using Artificial Intelligence (AI) which visually and audibly emulates a human being. These digital helpers can deliver screening and brief interventions, namely, Motivational Interview-based Brief Intervention (BI).

Pahola is the Pan American Health Organizations first AI Health Specialist and the only AI digital health worker in the world focusing on alcohol-related topics. Pahola can interact with anyone interested in talking about their alcohol consumption, assessing their risk, reducing or stopping alcohol, or seeking resources for treatment and recovery. Pahola is being developed in three languages (English, Portuguese and Spanish).


How to participate


 The session will be available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese with simultaneous translation.




  • 10:00 – 10:05 A.M. Welcome
    • Dr. Anselm Hennis, Director, Department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health (NMH), PAHO
  • 10:05 – 10:10 A.M. Opening Remarks
    • Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, Assistant Director, PAHO
  • 10:10 – 10:15 A.M. Remarks
    • Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO
  • 10:15 – 10:18 A.M. Meet Pahola
    • Pahola. Digital Health Specialist on Alcohol, PAHO
  • 10:18 – 10:45 A.M. Panel Discussion: Alcohol Public Health and Artificial Intelligences in Health Care
    • Moderated by Dr Adam Karpati, Senior Vice President, Public Health Programs, Vital Strategies
    • Ms Erica Lloyd, General Manager, Healthcare and Education, Soul Machines
    • Dr. Maristela Monteiro, Senior Advisor on Alcohol, PAHO
    • Dr. Kevin Shield, Assistant Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Canada
    • Dr. Jürgen Rehm, Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Canada
  • 10:45 – 10:55 A.M. Q&A
    • Moderated by Ms. Silvana Luciani, Unit Chief, Noncommunicable Diseases and Violence Prevention, PAHO
  • 10:55 – 11:00 A.M. Closing Remarks
    • Dr. Anselm Hennis, Director, Department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health (NMH), PAHO


Time correspondence 


  • 7:00 am. Los Angeles
  • 9:00 am. –  Belmopan, Guatemala City, Managua, Mexico City, San José (CR), San Salvador, Tegucigalpa
  • 10:00 am – Bogota, Panama City, Havana, Lima, Nassau, Port-au-Prince, Quito, Washington DC
  • 11:00 am. –  Bridgetown, Castries, Georgetown, Kingston, Port of Spain, San Juan
  • 12:00 pm. – Asunción, Brasilia, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Paramaribo, Santiago
  •  4:00 pm. – Geneva, Madrid

For other cities, check the time in the following linkMake sure that you select the date of the event as many countries are changing the time in this time of the year, but the change happens in different weeks.