Asuncion, July 25, 2016 (PAHO / PANAFTOSA) - Ministers of Health and Agriculture of the Americas have pledged to work together to coordinate actions on emerging zoonotic diseases that can affect human health, and to set up integrated surveillance for antimicrobial resistance, with the aim of promoting appropriate use of antimicrobials in human and animal health.
These are some of the main conclusions of the 17th Inter-American Ministerial Meeting on Health and Agriculture (RIMSA 17), which gathered health and agriculture officials from the region in Asuncion, Paraguay last week. Under the theme "One Health and the Sustainable Development Goals", the ministers discussed issues such as food safety, the eradication of FMD in the Americas and the prevention and control of zoonotic diseases. They also agreed on recommendations to adopt a "One Health" approach for issues related to the interface between human health and animal health, including the mitigation and containment of the impact of antimicrobial resistance.
The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa F. Etienne, emphasized the importance of commitment of governments and all stakeholders involved in these issues, so that progress can be made with the proposed recommendations in a coordinated and intersectoral manner. At the conclusion of the meeting, she asked the Member States to attend the United Nations General Assembly in September 2016, and to prepare and advocate for intersectoral plans of action to advance the needed investments, research and surveillance in health issues relevant to the region.
Recommendations on surveillance and intersectoral action
The ministers, technical staff and representatives of international and regional organizations from 30 countries expressed their concern about the continuing threats posed to human and animal populations by emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases, foodborne diseases, and pathogens resistant to antimicrobials.
Health and Agriculture authorities agreed to establish and/or strengthen public health policies through the development of relevant legal frameworks, and working guidelines to coordinate the management of endemic zoonoses, and to develop and/or strengthen mechanisms for early warning and rapid response to threats from emerging zoonoses. In this regard, they called on PAHO to provide technical cooperation to strengthen integrated surveillance systems and the prevention, control and elimination of zoonotic and emerging diseases by focusing on Veterinary Public Health and One Health. This was defined as collaborative work between sectors, programs and disciplines to promote and protect the health of people, animals and the environment.
With regard to food safety, participants in the RIMSA 17 meeting highlighted the need for ministries to strengthen and develop food control programs with a comprehensive "farm to table" approach incorporating health and agriculture sectors as well the environment, tourism, industry, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and consumers.
The authorities highlighted the challenges countries face "to achieve universal health coverage and ensure food security" and called for "recognizing the importance of food as a public health priority," taking into consideration the key role that the Americas play in ensuring world food security. They requested the Director of PAHO / WHO to update the Strategy and Plan of Action for Food Safety and present this to the Directing Council of PAHO a, to support countries in the modernization of integrated systems, using new information and communication technologies.
Representatives of the countries agreed that antimicrobial resistance represents "a threat to public health and animal health" and that "its containment requires collaboration between health, agriculture, and private sectors". One of the recommendations of the RIMSA meeting was for countries to develop, fund and implement National Plans on antimicrobial resistance based on multisectoral interventions, including integrated surveillance for antimicrobial resistance, and to promote the appropriate use of antimicrobials in health and agriculture, using a One Health approach.
Ministers of Health and Agriculture agreed that technical cooperation and intersectoral action are key in this effort, and asked PAHO to lead and prioritize countries' efforts to respond using the One Health approach, in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In addition to the delegations from the countries of the Americas, the opening of RIMSA 17 was led by the President of the Republic of Paraguay, Don Horacio Cartes Jara, accompanied by Vice President Juan Afara; the President of the Supreme Court, Alicia Pucheta; President of the Chamber of Deputies, Hugo Velazquez Moreno; the Minister of Agriculture, Juan Carlos Baruja and the Minister of Public Health and Social Welfare, Antonio Barrios, among others. Their participation in the event sent a clear message about the importance of intersectoral action to address the challenges of health and its determinants under the concept of One Health.
RIMSA meets every four years, bringing together ministerial authorities from health and agriculture sectors of the countries of the Americas to discuss the needs of the countries and proposals for PAHO's technical cooperation in the area of ??veterinary public health.
The Veterinary Public Health Unit / Pan American Foot-and-Mouth Disease Center (PANAFTOSA) of PAHO / WHO organized RIMSA 17, with support and sponsorship from the Government of the Republic of Paraguay.
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