PAHO/WHO Mission Provides Technical Support for Discussion of Proposed Reform of Colombia’s Health System

Mision OMS/OPS

Bogotá, 8 February 2023. In response to a request from the President of the Republic, Gustavo Petro Urrego, a Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) mission provided technical support for discussions of the proposal to reform the health system in Colombia, as part of continued technical cooperation on this subject since August 2022.

A team of specialists provided Colombia with knowledge and information based on evidence and experiences of other countries and of PAHO/WHO, focusing on access to quality health services for all during the transition the national government wishes to implement. During the visit, a roadmap was developed for technical cooperation, based on a work agenda established by the PAHO Representative Office in Colombia and the country’s Ministry of Health and Social Protection.

"The purpose of this mission is to engage in a technical, strategic dialogue to determine together how to carry out the proposed health reform. We also want to have a technical and strategic dialogue about the critical transition phase and, alongside the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, identify which areas need to be strengthened during the reform process, using the expertise provided by our colleagues from WHO and PAHO and sharing experiences from other countries," explained Gina Tambini Gómez, the PAHO/WHO representative in Colombia.

James Fitzgerald, director of PAHO's Department of Health Systems and Services in Washington D.C, said "the reform is focused on primary health care, the key pillar of ensuring universal health, effective coverage, and health for the population, responding to needs in urban, peri-urban, and rural areas." During the pandemic, he added, it became evident that a weak primary health care system would jeopardize future resilience. "To provide effective access to the population and respond to the needs of people, families, and communities, we must build integrated networks at the first level of care where they live" he affirmed.

At the end of the mission, Ernesto Báscolo, chief of the Health Services and Access Unit at PAHO headquarters, thanked the team of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection for conducting workshops and analyzing the major challenges facing the Colombian health system, and in particular “for their proposal of a primary health care strategy that focuses on social determinants and that seeks to guarantee the right to health for all people in the country."

El Ministerio de Protección Social también extendió un agradecimiento a la misión de la OMS y la OPS en Colombia. “Agradecer a esta misión de nueve personas de la Organización Mundial de la Salud y la Organización Panamericana de la Salud que nos han permitido confirmar algo que veníamos planteando en el sentido de que el cambio para garantizar el derecho a la salud está basado en parámetros universales, en parámetros globales, es una lucha global porque haya sistemas universales basados en la atención primaria en salud”, dijo el viceministro de salud pública Jaime Urrego.

Luis Alberto Martinez, the Deputy Minister of Social Protection, remarked on the importance of this mission for the Colombian government, which is fully committed to ensuring its success. "The technical support from WHO and PAHO was vital," he said. "We welcome this guidance throughout the reform process, especially during the transition and implementation phase of the new Colombian health system, which will strive to guarantee the fundamental right to health, advance comprehensive care for the population, and protect resources."

The following individuals participated in the PAHO/WHO delegation that provided technical support for the health reform process in Colombia: Dr. Suraya Dalil, Director of the WHO Special Programme on Primary Health Care (Geneva, Switzerland); Dr. James Fitzgerald, Director of the Department of Health Systems and Services; Dr. Ernesto Báscolo, Chief of the Health Services and Access Unit; Dr. Gisela Alarcón, Advisor on Health Systems and Services; and Juan Pablo Pagano, Specialist in Health Finance (all from PAHO headquarters in Washington D.C.); Dr. Gina Tambini Gómez, PAHO/WHO representative in Colombia; and initiative leaders Dr. Mónica Padilla, Dr. Guillermo Gonzalvez, and Dr. Evelyne Degraff.