2023 Highlights - PAHO focuses on primary health care, communicable diseases, and pandemic preparedness

27 Dec 2023
Young girls pose around post
27 Dec 2023

Washington D.C. 27 December 2023 (PAHO) – As the year draws to a close, it is time to reflect upon some of highlights from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), as well as major advances towards health in the Region of the Americas:

Dr. Barbosa begins his tenure as PAHO Director – On 31st January, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa was sworn in as new Director of PAHO, pledging to work with member states to end the pandemic and ensure the region’s health systems recover stronger than before.

COVID-19 emergency ends – On 5th May, the WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus accepted the advice of the Emergency Committee on COVID-19, and it was announced that the pandemic would no longer constitute a public health emergency of internal concern (PHEIC).

The end of the COVID-19 emergency ushered in a year of recovery and rebuilding for the Americas and has permitted a refocus on other health priorities, including noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), infectious disease elimination, and pandemic preparedness.

Connecting Health for all – On 25th July, PAHO celebrated five years of collaboration in information systems and digital health with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). This partnership is crucial in supporting national health systems to use data to become more resilient.

This year has also seen the continued development of PAHO’s Innovation and Regional Production Platform, to promote the regional development of vaccines and other health technologies, thus reducing the reliance of the Americas on imports during times of emergencies. On 2 October, Dr. Barbosa signed a new agreement with Argentine health, science and technology authorities to increase capacities for the development and production of mRNA vaccines for regional use.

Better Care for Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) – On 27th September, Dr. Barbosa launched Better Care for NCDs: Accelerating Actions in Primary Health Care. This initiative aims to support countries in ensuring primary health care services that are high quality, safe, comprehensive, integrated, accessible and affordable for everyone.

In September, PAHO’s Elimination Initiative, which seeks to put an end to more than 30 communicable diseases and related conditions in Latin America and the Caribbean, received new impetus. The lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, including a deeper understanding of health inequalities, will serve as an opportunity for countries to accelerate the pace of the initiative.

COP28 – In December, PAHO was also at the forefront of conversations around the health impact of climate change at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, where the PAHO Assistant Director, Dr. Rhonda Sealey-Thomas, underscored the organization’s work to strengthen actions to develop climate resilient health systems.

To ensure that PAHO is best placed to support countries of the Region in rebuilding health systems post-pandemic and strengthening emergency preparedness, this year the PAHO Director also launched PAHO Forward, an initiative to improve PAHO’s efficiency, transparency and accountability.