PAHO, IDB, and World Bank co-host virtual seminar on Digital Transformation in Primary Health Care


Washington, D.C., May 14, 2024 – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in a joint initiative with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank (WB), held the seminar "Inclusive Digital Health at the First Level of Care," where representatives from the organizations provided an overview of the current landscape of digital transformation in Primary Health Care (PHC). This first meeting took place on May 13, and is part of the series of virtual seminars "Navigating the Digital Shift: Advancing Digital Transformation in Health for All."

"The Alliance for Primary Health Care, signed by our three institutions in Uruguay, has laid the groundwork for today’s discussions, aligning with our goal of exploring, integrating, and leveraging digital health solutions in primary health care across the Americas," said Jarbas Barbosa, Director of PAHO, in his opening remarks.

"Through this series of seminars, we aim not only to share information and experiences but also to inspire all health sector stakeholders to advance towards a digital transformation that promotes more resilient, inclusive, equitable, and efficient health systems," he added.

This first meeting outlined the importance of digital transformation in health and initiated a discussion that highlighted the potential of digital technologies to improve access and quality of health care, as well as to address challenges faced by the Region in deploying digital technologies.

"With the leadership of PAHO, the IDB, and the World Bank, we are shaping a future where technology and collaboration become fundamental pillars to achieve health for all," said Barbosa.

Joining the PAHO Director were Rhonda Sealey-Thomas, PAHO Assitant Director; Ferdinando Regalía, Manager of the Social Sector at IDB; and Jaime Saavedra, Director of Human Development for Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank.

The first panel, titled "Digital Health in Action," moderated by Ernesto Báscolo, Unit Chief of the Primary Health Care and Integrated Service Delivery at PAHO, included participation from Jennifer Nelson, Senior Digital Health Specialist at the IDB’s Health and Social Protection Division; Gianluca Cafagna, Health Specialist in the World Bank’s Global Practice for Health, Nutrition, and Population; and Marcelo D’Agostino, Unit Chief of Information Systems and Digital Health at PAHO’s Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health Department, who shared experiences in institutional  digital health innovations focusing on Primary Health Care.
Additionally, Ana Estela Haddad, Secretary of Information and Digital Health at Brazil’s Ministry of Health, presented how digital health is central to the continued development of the health system in Brazil to expand access and ensure inclusivity based on a highly resolutive First Level of Care.

James Fitzgerald, Director of PAHO's Health Systems and Services Department, and Sebastián García Saisó, PAHO's Director of the Department of Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health, delivered their conclusions and closing remarks.

"Through the Alliance for Primary Health Care, we need to explore in detail the core issues related to digital transformation, understand its implications, and learn from countries’ experiences in addressing these challenges," said Fitzgerald.

He also highlighted the importance of health literacy, mentioning PAHO’s Virtual Campus, which actively engages over 3 million health workers. "We have an enormous opportunity to expand our outreach directly into health institutions, primary care centers, health service delivery networks, and hospital settings to improve digital literacy," he added.

This series of seminars is part of the activities of the Alliance for Primary Health Care in the Americas, formed by PAHO, IDB, and the World Bank, launched in December 2023. The Alliance aims to support the countries of the Region through increased investment and innovation to implement PHC as a comprehensive strategic approach to addressing the health needs of individuals, families, and communities.