Director of PAHO presents his 2023 Annual Report to the OAS, highlights achievements and challenges in health for the Americas

Director of PAHO presents his 2023 Annual Report to the OAS
PAHO/WHO/David Spitz

Washington, D.C., May 15, 2024 (PAHO)– The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Jarbas Barbosa, today presented his 2023 Annual Report to the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS), in Washington, D.C. The document reflects the achievements made in the region during the past year and highlights the persistent health challenges that require sustained collective efforts to overcome.

The report covers a transition period on several fronts, from the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic to post-pandemic recovery, and from emergency response to implementing lessons learned to revitalize health services.

The PAHO Director highlighted the organization's role over the past 120 years in supporting Member States to achieve international health standards and close gaps in access to healthcare.

"The Americas continues to be a global leader in public health," Dr. Barbosa emphasized, mentioning achievements such as the elimination of smallpox and polio, and the model of PAHO's Regional Revolving Funds for the purchase of vaccines, medicines, and strategic supplies.

Director of PAHO presents his 2023 Annual Report to the OAS
Credit: PAHO/WHO/David Spitz

Yet, despite progress made over the past decades, "health remains an unfulfilled promise for so many in the Americas," the PAHO Director said, recalling that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated inequalities and negatively impacted critical health indicators, such as vaccination rates.

He also pointed out a complex epidemiological landscape with the persistence of communicable diseases, the risk of outbreaks and epidemics, the rise of non-communicable diseases, increasing maternal mortality rates, the health impacts of climate change, and the damage caused by violence in all its forms.

Dr. Barbosa highlighted the need to "take the opportunity to effectively address common health challenges and protect important regional achievements." In this regard, he mentioned that PAHO is carrying out an ambitious initiative to eliminate more than 30 diseases, and the Americas are moving towards recertification as a measles-free region.

Furthermore, he proposed expanding local production capacity for medicines and vaccines, strengthening national health systems, and ensuring adequate public health spending. He also emphasized the importance of primary health care as the first line of defense against future pandemics.

"PAHO is committed to expanding access to health in every corner of the Americas," Dr. Barbosa said, "but we cannot do it alone."

The PAHO Director stressed the need to position health at the center of development policies and promote collaboration between sectors. "Only through collaboration will we overcome persistent inequalities and build resilient health systems that can help us achieve universal health," he emphasized.

Dr. Barbosa concluded by highlighting that "our success depends on applying the most important lesson of the COVID-19 pandemic: that health enables all progress," and reaffirmed PAHO's commitment as a strategic ally to improve the health and well-being of populations in the region.