PAHO Director underscores transatlantic partnerships to address present and future health challenges

Dr. Barbosa at the World Health Summit in Berlin

Berlin, Germany, 17 October 2023 (PAHO) - At the 2023 World Health Summit in Berlin, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Jarbas Barbosa, highlighted the need for strong partnerships across regions to increase health access and equity, especially as countries work to increase preparedness and response to future health threats.

“Countries in the Americas are still struggling with inequalities in access to health, education, and social protection, while facing significant demographic changes, including an aging population that needs long-term social and health care,” the PAHO Director said in a session organized by the M8 Alliance, the George Washington University and the University of Montreal, entitled “Transatlantic Lessons for Global Health: From DC to Berlin,” during the global health gathering.

These obstacles present an enormous challenge for the sustainability of health systems in the region, Dr. Barbosa added, which can only be addressed through strategic partnerships, such as the agreement signed between PAHO, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the WHO Regional Office for Europe earlier this year.

The tripartite collaboration seeks to advance a common health agenda, including networks to mobilize capacity in Europe and the Americas for pandemic response, as well as health workforce mobilization, and joint actions to tackle climate change and antimicrobial resistance and promote health for migrants and refugees.

It also seeks to optimize engagement to develop regional manufacturing capacity for medicines, vaccines, and health technologies – a lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic, which left many Latin American and Caribbean countries vulnerable with limited health supplies.

While the partnership could benefit the most vulnerable countries in the Americas, the PAHO Director also highlighted areas where the regional experience could benefit others. He recalled that, for over 40 years, countries in the Americas have pooled the procurement of vaccines through PAHO’s Regional Revolving Funds, and the advantage is “evident in the Region’s elimination of several vaccine-preventable diseases, and the ongoing control and prevention of HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria.”

In addition, PAHO’s Virtual Campus—an educational platform designed to improve technical cooperation with our Member States—reaches more than 2.5 million health workers in the region, the Director added, building capacity in COVID-19 prevention and management, expanding access to NCD care and treatment and strengthening regulatory capacity in countries, among others.  

“I know that as our regions continue to engage in forums such as the World Health Summit, both here in Berlin and in Washington D.C., we can further benefit the health and well-being of all peoples in the Americas and Europe,” Dr. Barbosa said.

During the event, Loyce Pace, Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs at the United States HHS, reiterated that such collaborative frameworks allow us to zoom in and take concrete action on priority issues, such as One Health, but also accelerate progress in areas such as medical manufacturing.

Dr. Gundo Aurel Weiler, Director for Country Support at WHO’s Regional Office for Europe, underlined that COVID-19 showed us how closely linked countries are in their domestic health issues. These include health misinformation, pandemic preparedness, and inequality, among others, and strong partnerships would allow us to maintain health “at centre of social and economic development” in the global agenda.

Speaking on the key role of academia in providing research, data, and innovation required to tackle global health challenges, Dr. Prof. Dr. Hélène Boisjoly, Board of Directors and Former Dean of Medicine at the University of Montreal, Canada, reiterated that, in order to construct health systems that are based on people’s needs, collaboration between the public health sector, academia and industries would be key.  

“It is evident that we need to collectively establish a collaborative approach to strengthen health security, health equity, and the global health architecture that we share,” Dr. Barbosa said in his closing remarks. “If we don’t take into account inequalities, no public health policy will succeed. If we don’t identify the barriers – cultural, social or economic – and develop strategies to address them, we will always leave some population groups behind,” he said.

During the 2023 World Health Summit, the PAHO Director also presented PAHO’s Elimination Initiative, which aims to wipe out 30 diseases and related conditions from the Americas by 2030, including malaria, mother-to-child HIV transmission, and cervical cancer, along with several neglected tropical diseases.

He also held meetings with representatives from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the French Development Agency (AFD), the German Development Agency (GIZ), as well as with representatives from Google Health and Davos Alzheimer's Collaborative, among others.