PAHO Colombia culminates cycle of workshops to address Noncommunicable Diseases in the framework of social determinants of health and equity, a pilot in the Americas region

Grupo de asistentes

Bogotá, 28 February 2023 (PAHO/WHO) - Under the slogan "Let's add years to life, together we can attack the causes of chronic diseases and lead healthier and more productive lives, the Pan American Health Organization, with the support of the PAHO Regional Office and the Ministry of Health of Colombia, completed in Colombia the first cycle of workshops to address chronic noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) within the framework of action of the social determinants of health and equity. The workshops took place in the cities of Neiva (Huila), Popayán (Cauca) and Bogotá, between February 13 and February 28.

Collage de personas

These meetings were aimed at raising awareness and discussing the impact of social determinants on NCDs, as well as at identifying how living conditions limit access to health services and interventions in the country, particularly among populations living in conditions of greater vulnerability. In addition, the sessions had the purpose of collecting feedback from the attendees using the new Module on Social Determinants in the HEARTS technical package. "As we know, chronic noncommunicable diseases are a growing health problem in our region, and it is essential to address them from a broad and comprehensive perspective that considers the social determinants of health and equity, from multisectoral action," said Guillermo Gonzálvez, international advisor on disease prevention and control at PAHO/WHO Colombia. 

"Exposure to different risk factors, such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles, is closely related to the social conditions in which we live. Therefore, it is necessary to consider these factors when addressing NCD prevention and care," added Dr. Gonzálvez. 

The workshops have identified necessary practices and areas of opportunity to best support addressing the Social Determinants of Health and reducing inequities in the strategies and plans to address NCD risk factors, such as the model of Healthy and Sustainable Cities, Environments and Ruralities (CERSS in the acronym in Spanish). They have also served to increase awareness on how social conditions influence health and improve the effectiveness of interventions in terms of access, adherence, and outcomes. 

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The final workshop in Bogota was attended by Dr. Leo Nederveen, Acting Chief of PAHO's Risk Factors and Nutrition Unit; Dr. Orielle Solar, Acting Chief of the Health Promotion and Social Determinants Unit; and Dr. Pilar Campos, Regional Health Promotion Advisor. The Ministries of Health and Social Protection, Sports, Transportation, the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF), and the Universidad de los Andes, among others, also participated. The workshops were attended by representatives of the Departmental and Municipal Health Secretariats of more than 20 departments and more than 170 NCD leaders at the national level. The participants came from Huila, Cauca and Cundinamarca, venues of the meetings, as well from other departments of the country, including Amazonas, Antioquia, Atlántico, Bogotá, Bolívar, Boyacá, Caldas, Guaviare, Magdalena, Meta, Norte de Santander, Nariño, Santander, Vichada, Tolima, Vaupés and Caquetá. 

Dr. Orielle Solar emphasized the need for coordinated and integrated work, such as that developed in these workshops, and the challenge of including the social determinants of health in the work of the programs to advance health equity. 

The PAHO/WHO representative in Colombia, Gina Tambini Gómez, concluded during the closing of this cycle of workshops that Colombia has a great opportunity for the implementation of the primary health care strategy based on the approach to the social determinants of health, which also aims to achieve equity and access to quality services for the entire population, with emphasis on peri-urban and rural areas. She also referred to the experiences and lessons learned that were identified in the workshops as opportunities to achieve the purposes of the transition in health reform, and highlighted the commitment and importance that governments should give to the health and welfare of the population through intersectoral work, as the cornerstones for sustainable economic recovery. 

Colombia and Suriname have been the countries chosen by PAHO to continue developing the objectives of this cooperation project, which seeks to achieve equity in the approach to NCDs and their determinants and based on the PHC Primary Health Care strategies that are being promoted in the Region.  This has been a joint effort between PAHO/WHO, the Ministry of Health, and the NCD and determinants teams of both institutions.