A declaration was also issued to urge Heads of States in the Region to accelerate efforts to end tuberculosis.

Montevideo, Uruguay, 30 August 2018 (PAHO/WHO) – Parliamentarians from 13 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean have agreed to work together to harmonize laws and regulatory frameworks, in accordance with the best available scientific evidence, on a variety of health issues in the region.

This commitment was made during the IV Congress of the Presidents of the Health Committees of the Parliaments of the Americas - “Health legislation as a tool for social inclusion”, which took place on the 20 to 22 August in the Legislative Palace in Uruguay.

During the congress, which was organized by the Uruguayan Parliament and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), parliamentarians exchanged their experiences, learned about successful cases of health legislation in Uruguay, and received strategic vision and technical information from a variety of regional advisors from PAHO.

The meeting brought together key actors involved in creating and modifying laws to analyze the benefits of adopting legislation that can prevent diseases and promote good health. It also facilitated the sharing of successful legislation that can be adapted and applied by parliaments in other countries,” said Giovanni Escalante, PAHO/WHO representative in Uruguay.

“So long as health issues are similar and global health is being promoted, legislation should not differ much from country to country,” said Ignacio Ibarra, PAHO’s regional advisor on health-related legislation and the technical secretary of the congress. “However, not all countries in the Americas have solid regulatory frameworks so sometimes existing legislation is not being applied for a variety of reasons including a lack of legal authority or limited control mechanisms.”

During the congress, the importance of harmonizing laws relating to health, and utilizing the models and framework laws discussed in sub-regional parliaments, was emphasized, as these serve to guide the revision of national legislation in the region, a process which is supported by PAHO.

Topics were also discussed such as the regulatory approach to risk factors to prevent noncommunicable diseases and promote health, the need to promote comprehensive legislation for front-of-package nutritional labelling, the regulation of junk-food advertising, measures to strengthen tobacco control in line with international obligations, and the promotion of road safety to reduce the burden of preventable deaths.

Participants in the congress also analyzed the importance of strengthening the stewardship function of national health authorities in the journey towards ensuring universal health, a process which requires solid legal frameworks. This is particularly important when considering the regulation of private healthcare providers within health-insurance models, given that health is a fundamental human right, and necessary for public good.

During the congress, the host country presented its experience of legislative support in reforming its healthcare system, as well as its plan for preventing obesity and noncommunicable diseases, particularly its efforts in tobacco control.

“Many countries do not have to start from scratch, said deputy Luis Gallo, national representative of Uruguayan Parliament, and President of the IV Congress of the Presidents of the Health Committees of the Parliaments of the Americas. “There is already considerable evidence to develop legislation and to advance legal frameworks that ensure the right to health and other fundamental human rights in a comprehensive and interinstitutional manner, as a key responsibility of states.

As well as Gallo, parliamentarians from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and the Dominican Republic participated in the congress. Representatives from regional organizations such as the Andean Regional Health Organization (ORAS CONHU), MERCOSUR, and the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, were also present, as were deputies from the Central American, Andean and MERCOSUR parliaments.

Declaration on tuberculosis

The parliamentarians issued a declaration expressing their support for efforts aimed at ending tuberculosis and urged heads of state and governments in the region to accelerate actions towards achieving this goal.

They were also urged to attend the first high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuberculosis on 26 September. Tuberculosis is a disease that affected 274,000 people in the Americas in 2016, leading to 17,000 deaths. The region could be the first in the world to eliminate it.

Migration and health, air quality and road safety

Legislators also debated the need to include the issue of migratory flows on their countries’ parliamentary agendas, and the challenge these pose for health, as well as the need to strengthen health actions in border areas. Chile, along with PAHO will host an inter-congress meeting to continue this discussion and consider alternative solutions.

A meeting of parliamentarians will also be held through the Central American Parliament, in the upcoming months in the Dominican Republic. This meeting will focus on discussing the promotion of air-quality, and the harmonization of legislation on road safety.

Parliamentary Network

During the congress, the parliamentarians also agreed to strengthen the parliamentary health network, which will serve to bridge communication and exchange experiences. All members of the region’s parliamentary health committees, as well as committees working on issues related to health promotion and determining factors, can join this network. PAHO will organize the network in its capacity as technical secretariat of the congress.

During the congress, PAHO and the MERCOSUR Parliament signed a framework agreement to promote the strengthening and harmonization of health legislation, for the benefit of those living in the Southern Cone.

The first Congress of the Presidents of the Health Committees of the Parliaments of the Americas took place in Paracas, Peru in 2015. The next meeting was held in Panama in 2016 and last year’s meeting was held in Chile. Honduras will host the V Congress in 2019 as agreed by the parliamentarians.

More information

IV Congreso de los Presidentes de las Comisiones de Salud de los Parlamentos de las Américas
Declaratoria del IV Congreso de Comisiones de Salud de los Parlamentos de las Américas sobre Tuberculosis


PAHO/WHO Uruguay
Analía Oxandabarat
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PAHO/WHO in Washington
Sebastián Oliel
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Secretariado Técnico del Congreso
Oficina del Asesor Jurídico OPS/OMS
Ignacio Ibarra
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