A cohesive approach to rebuilding health systems post-COVID-19 essential, PAHO Director says

Dr. Jarbas Barbosa Speaking at a dialogue with the Atlantic Council

Washington D.C. 21 June 2023 (PAHO) – As the Americas begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, has underscored the importance of ensuring that rebuilding efforts focus on an integrated, multi-sectoral approach, based on primary health care.

Speaking at a dialogue with the Atlantic Council today, Dr. Barbosa highlighted that reprioritization of health systems would not have been possible without collaboration across all areas of government, and it is key this continues to ensure the development of robust health systems that are prepared for possible future health emergencies.

There remains a misconception that the Americas is made up of just middle-income countries yet “the Region is the most unequal in the world, not just between countries but within countries, Dr. Barbosa stressed. “And we need support. Ministers of health, ministers of foreign affairs, and heads of state in the Region are interested in strengthening their health infrastructure.”

“An important part of our population has limited access to social services, in general, including health,” he said, adding that this is particularly true for vulnerable groups such as Indigenous populations, Afro-descendent people, and poor families.

During the dialogue, Dr. Barbosa emphasized that partnerships, including with multi-lateral agencies, such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, are key to ensuring the development of robust health systems, but the challenge remains of how we can “use the interest and visibility provided by the pandemic to fund the projects that will really make a difference and increase health system capacity.”

Dr. Barbosa highlighted that countries must ensure that proposals are developed that are multi-sectoral and integrated, and not just focused on specific initiatives such as the development of one hospital or clinic.

“High-quality, integrated, primary health care services can address around 80% of public health problems,” he added.

“The idea is to have primary health care not as a limited package of services to the population but to provide high-quality care services that can resolve most health issues.”

To find out more and view the full dialogue, please see here A conversation with Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, director of the Pan American Health Organization - YouTube