Summary of Session 3: Transforming health systems toward optimal NCD management

25 Jun 2021
image of a man talking to a woman through a computer call

On June 7th 2021, the Noncommunicable Diseases and Injury Prevention Unit hosted a webinar on Transforming health systems toward optimal NCD management as part of PAHO’s Tackling NCDs, risk factors and mental health during the time of COVID-19 webinar series. The Zoom session, which featured simultaneous translation in English and Spanish, and interpretation in International Sign Language, was attended by more than 300 participants. It was additionally broadcast via YouTube.

Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, Assistant Director of PAHO, introduced this webinar by saying that given that persons living with NCDs are at a greater risk of severe COVID-10, hospitalization, and death, they need to be considered a priority population. He especially thanked the Minister of Health of Jamaica, the Ministry of Health of Paraguay, as well as the Inter-American Development Bank for participating in this webinar.

Dr. Hennis, Director, Department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health presented an overview of the COVID-19 in the Region of the Americas, the most affected one by this pandemic while at the same time NCDs continue to be the leading causes of death in the Americas. Service disruptions during the pandemic have especially affected persons living with NCDs, including older persons and those with multi-morbidities, who face greater challenges for severe COVID-19. In addition, the pandemic has triggered a major mental health crisis.  

Country experiences:

Paraguay, The Chronic Care Model: a new way of organizing the healthcare system: Dr. Guillermo Sequera

The Chronic care model (CCM) is based in the collaboration between the health system and the community for NCD and risk factor prevention grounded at the primary care level.  With COVID-19, adjustments such as telemedicine and delivering medicines for longer periods were made. As mental health shares mostly the same principles as chronic care, it was coupled with the CCM. Physical activity and healthy diet, as well as ‘tele-detox’, an innovative program encouraging people to disconnect from excess, and often untrue, information have been promoted.

Jamaica: strengthening health systems for NCDs: Dr. Tufton

Jamaica has responded to NCDs by establishing policies, strengthening the primary level of care, and stepping up its infrastructure under the guiding principle no one should be located beyond 10 miles of a primary care facility and expanding the workforce. Tackling risk factors activities  include a tobacco control act, a harmful use of alcohol policy, guidelines for beverages and nutrition standards at schools, and workshops with manufacturers for sugar reduction. Mental health activities include multimedia messages, psychological support sessions; a 24-hour helpline, and trained staff in psychological first aid at COVID-19 isolation facilities. Jamaica Moves is a wellness physical activity program developed at schools, workplaces, and the community by tapping into the culture and the lifestyle, to make physical activity fun.  


Inter-American Development Bank support to strengthen health systems that target NCDs: Dr. Ferdinando Regalia

Dr. Regalia stressed that “unless we seriously address primary prevention and quality of care, we will not be able to afford the cost of treating these diseases in the future”. He presented the IDB’s framework to address familiar and unfamiliar challenges within the health system exposed by the pandemic based in improving quality of healthcare service, accelerating the digital transformation, and focusing on results, with efficiency, quality, and equity, in a fiscally constrained world.

Dr. Fitzgerald, Director of the Department of Health Systems and Services, presented PAHO’s proposal to build more resilient health systems, based on renewing and investing in primary care, retaking the Essential Health Functions with a whole of government and whole of society approach, increase the capacity of health service delivery networks, and increasing public financing and social protection.

Presenters later responded to the audience’s questions about the specifics of investment, the role of the private sector and the involvement of persons living with NCDs in decision-making.  

Report available at Report webinar