Washington D.C. 17 February 2022 (PAHO) – Today, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) kicks off its anniversary campaign to celebrate 120 years of active work promoting health and wellbeing throughout the Americas, with a calendar of events set to catalyze dialogue around the region’s pressing health challenges.
Founded in 1902 under the guiding principle that health is not a privilege but a fundamental human right, PAHO has worked tirelessly over the past 120 years to combat disease, lengthen life and to promote the physical and mental health of all people in the Americas, leaving no one behind.
“We have reached our 120th anniversary during some of the most challenging times the region, and the world, have ever seen- a COVID-19 pandemic, the likes of which we have not experienced for a century, and one which has laid bare some of our most striking health inequalities,” PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne said.
“As we begin to look towards rebuilding and recovery, never before has PAHO’s leadership been more crucial and more relevant,” she added.
The 120th Anniversary campaign aims to spur efforts to champion pro-equity strategies for universal health access and coverage, and to promote the urgent need for robust health systems that are sufficiently ready and resourced to meet current and future health challenges.
A full set of events is planned, starting with a virtual dialogue on “The interdependency between health, social protection and economy” in March 2022.
High-level discussions will also be held on issues such as equity and gender and expanding medical manufacturing capacity in the region, highlighting the longstanding collaboration between PAHO and its Member States.
In November, PAHO will bring together senior officials from leading tech organizations and health experts to discuss how to harness technology and innovation for health using a digital- and data-driven approach to recovery and rebuilding.
The 120th Anniversary campaign will also include a dedicated website and promotional products that can be used by partners to mark the anniversary throughout the year.
PAHO was founded as the International Sanitary Bureau on 2 December 1902 to address the spread of infectious diseases during a time of rapid maritime transport expansion. It was renamed the Pan American Sanitary Bureau in 1923, and subsequently the Pan American Health Organization in 1958. PAHO is both the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for the Americas, and the specialized health agency of the Inter-American System.
Throughout its 120-year history, PAHO has helped the region overcome significant health challenges while promoting a vision of health as central to development, national security, trade, and social welfare.
PAHO has led the Americas in becoming the first region in the world to eradicate smallpox and poliomyelitis, and to eliminate the indigenous transmission of measles and rubella, and neonatal tetanus.
The organization has also been key to achieving a 30-year increase in average life expectancy in the Americas, as well as a significant reduction in child mortality, and an expansion of health coverage among poor and vulnerable populations.
Over the past two years, PAHO has worked alongside countries throughout the Americas to support the COVID-19 pandemic response, providing tests and delivering vaccines, training laboratory- and health care workers, and collecting and analyzing data for better decision-making and action.
Through its Revolving and Strategic Supply Funds, the organization has procured and delivered 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to over 30 countries in the Americas, as well as US$292 million worth of critical care medicines, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and diagnostic tests.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, PAHO has remained an indispensable, evidence-based and resilient organization, with a commitment to the principles of equity and solidarity,” Dr. Etienne said.
“PAHO has much to be proud of and much to celebrate in our rich history of service.”