PAHO Director highlights efforts of the Americas to recover public health gains lost during the pandemic

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Washington, DC, 12 December 2023 (PAHO)- On the occasion of Universal Health Day (also called Universal Health Coverage Day), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, highlighted the efforts made by countries of the Americas to recover public health gains lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These efforts include investment in pandemic preparedness and response capacity; expanding access to health services based on strengthened primary health care; and harnessing the power of innovation in digital transformation.

The PAHO Director also emphasized that countries "are strengthening their health workforce, building interprofessional teams that attend to the holistic needs of people, irrespective of where they live," and are also reinforcing actions in health promotion and disease control and prevention.

"Building the foundation of resilient, inclusive and expansive health systems means that we will be better prepared for the future. And the time for action is now – to invest, innovate and implement strategies to strengthen our health systems based on primary health care," remarked Dr. Barbosa.

To this end, he mentioned the recent launch of the Alliance for Primary Health Care in the Americas (AxAPS), an initiative promoted by PAHO, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank, which seeks to "support our countries in accelerating and expanding universal access to health and universal health coverage".

It is estimated that one third of the population of the Americas has unmet health care needs even before the pandemic, ranging from 55% in lower middle-income countries to 12% in high-income countries. They also face serious inequalities in the way health care is delivered, distributed and made available to the population.

The theme of Universal Health Coverage Day this year is 'Health for All: Time for Action'. The day was proclaimed on December 12, 2017 through United Nations General Assembly resolution 72/138, in response to efforts initiated years ago to promote access to quality and affordable health services for all people.