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PAHO calls for evidence and analysis review of the barriers to access to health in health policies design

23 Apr 2021

The new conceptual framework of the Essential Functions of Public Health is a guide for the analysis of barriers to access that must be present and mainstreamed in the policy formulation cycle.

Washington, DC, 23 April 2021 (PAHO)- The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) launched a series of webinars on the Essential Public Health Functions (EPHF) that seek to address countries’ experiences on practical solutions, critical bottlenecks, and lessons learned to strengthen public health functions and impact health access and outcomes within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This first activity focused on the challenges for identifying and evaluating access barriers to health and its implications for achieving Universal Health.

The webinar featured the participation of the Assistant Director of PAHO, Jarbas Barbosa; the Director of the Department of Health Systems and Services, James Fitzgerald; and the Advisor on health governance, leadership, policy, and planning, Ernesto Báscolo. In addition, three panelists participated: the PAHO Health Systems and Services Analysis, Monitoring, and Evaluation Specialist, Natalia Houghton; WHO Senior Technical Advisor on Equity, Theadora Swift Koller; and the Deputy Director of the Health Division from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Frederico Guanais.

"Among the lessons from 2020, we have learned that facing the pandemic and addressing its consequences implies raising the gaze and turning the goal on universal health, strengthening health systems from the essential public health functions and overcoming the inequities and barriers that our populations, including those in a greater situation of vulnerability, experience to exercise their right to health,” said Jarbas Barbosa.

Experts presented on the state of the art of access barriers that hinder the achievement of universal health in the Region of the Americas and their implications for public policy at the global level. Also, presenters introduced some tools for monitoring and identifying barriers; and an overview of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on access, and especially on the primary health care level.

“It is important and possible to quantify these barriers to access. We must advocate for these mechanisms in all countries to ensure greater equity in access to health systems," said James Fitzgerald. Jarbas Barbosa called to "consider the evidence and the analysis of barriers in the design of both sectoral and intersectoral policies, and design and implement policies to eliminate geographic, financial, organizational, gender-based, ethnic-based, and cultural barriers."

At the end of the event, Ernesto Báscolo stressed that "this webinar is framed within the new conceptual framework of the EPHF and the objectives of the Universal Health strategy in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic with its health, economic and social consequences and calls us to strengthen the public health competencies, and to involve multiple actors and stakeholders." In addition, he urged  participants to "change the way we think about the analysis of access barriers, towards an exercise that should be very present and mainstreamed in the policy formulation cycle."

The series of meetings on Essential Public Health Functions, which will take place monthly throughout 2021, began with the first webinar on access barriers. 

Visit the EPHF webinars page to access the recording of the event, the presentations used by the panelists, and learn about the calendar of the entire series and the issues that will be addressed in each meeting.