Wellness Week: PAHO calls for promoting care as a human right and social responsibility

Caring for children

Washington, DC, September 11, 2023 (PAHO)- On the occasion of Wellness Week 2023, celebrated from 9 to 15 September, the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr Jarbas Barbosa, said that in order to move as a region towards a stronger and fairer society in the post-pandemic recovery, it is essential “to address care as a human right and as a social responsibility.”

The concept of care encompasses the support needed throughout the life span of all people, from infancy to old age, as well as at times of illness or dependency. It also involves caring for both physical and mental health, promoting a healthy lifestyle, facilitating work-life balance, fostering social relationships, and caring for the environment.

Dr. Barbosa stressed the importance of “moving forward and implementing policies to promote better working conditions and work-life balance, sick leave, maternity and paternity leave, breastfeeding time, and other topics, but also to strengthen health, education, social protection, and housing, among others.”

Wellness Week, celebrated since 2011, promotes a positive vision of health and emphasizes the importance of health promotion for individuals and communities.

“This year we have chosen to focus on care precisely because of its linkages with health and wellbeing. It is important to recognize that all of us need care throughout our lives, although children, the elderly, and people with illness or dependency require care the most,” the PAHO Director said in a video message to mark Wellness Week.

“This will be an important step towards a society that promotes equity, health, and well-being,” he stressed.

Wellness Week 2023

Wellness Week opened today with a launch event in Bogotá, Colombia, focusing on the importance of care, as well as a discussion on the main challenges to better health and wellness. The gathering featured the participation of the PAHO Director and representatives from governments, academia and civil society, among others. To watch the recording of the event, click here.

The 2023 Wellness Week campaign slogan is The Care We Need, The Care We Want, appealing to the link between care, health, and well-being, as well as reinforcing the 2023 World Health Day message, calling for "Health for All".

During his virtual intervention at the PAHO meeting, organized in the Colombian capital, Dr Barbosa stressed that "one of the greatest challenges we have as a society is to move towards a redistribution of care,” since "the social organization of care is currently inequitable in socio-economic and gender terms."

"On the one hand, families who live in poverty or with fewer resources face greater difficulty in exercising their right to care. On the other hand, due to gender inequalities in the workplace and segmentation in the labour market, it is mostly women who provide care, whether unpaid in the home or paid in the workplace," he added.

Meanwhile, the Mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, emphasized that good health begins with good care. "If we take care of people, if we have liberated, autonomous, empowered women, optimistic youth who know they will have opportunities for education and employment that allow them freedom and economic autonomy... we will build an ethic of care."

"We are all children, and we need care. We can all fall ill at some point in our lives and need care. We will all reach old age and need care. Learning to take care of ourselves at every stage of life, with a lot of solidarity in the family, at school, at work, in the public and private spheres is crucial so that we can have a world with healthy habits and societies that know how to protect life and provide opportunities," Mayor López said.