Experts from Latin America discuss actions necessary to strengthen health systems and primary health care

sala de espera centro de salud en Panamá

Washington DC, March 18, 2021 (PAHO) - The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) participated in the conference on “The Future of Health Care in Latin America”, organized by the Wilson Institute, on 26 February 2021, where experts analyzed the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary reforms to strengthen health systems and services in Latin America.

"The emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to reflect on the future of health systems in the Americas," said James Fitzgerald, Director of the Department of Health Systems and Services of PAHO/WHO.

“Right now, health systems and services are facing several challenges. Among them, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and the urgent need to intensify public health actions to limit the population's exposure to the virus and strengthen the response capacity of health systems to the pandemic,” he said.

The region is in the process of vaccination or preparation for the arrival of vaccines. “PAHO is working with the countries in the development of national vaccination plans, assisting in matters of logistics, organization, import aspects, authorization, and post-marketing surveillance, in a context where national immunization health services must be maintained,” Fitzgerald said.

The recovery of health systems to respond to losses from the pandemic is a key issue in the region. Exacerbated by the social and economic crises in Latin America, which has an impact on the fiscal capacity of the governments of the countries to recover the losses in the health systems. The regional average for public spending on health is 3.7% of GDP, below the 6% recommended by PAHO.

"The pandemic has had a very strong impact on health systems, especially at the first level of care, and it has clearly shown us that there is a need for stronger health systems that promote and protect health," said James Fitzgerald. “An intersectoral approach is required and we must strengthen health and social protection systems throughout our Region,” he added.

PAHO is working with the countries of the region on a proposal to strengthen the resilience of health systems, outlining strategies to strengthen systems based on primary health care, integrating the concept of public health and the Essential Public Health Functions across all sectors and ensure adequate financing to make health systems and societies more resilient and prepared to respond to emergencies.