Washington, D.C., 12 October 2018 (PAHO/WHO) — Dr. Jarbas Barbosa of Brazil, was sworn in today as the new Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Jarbas Barbosa speech at his swearing in ceremony

A medical doctor who holds a Ph.D. in public health, Barbosa previously held high-level public health positions in Brazil and abroad. As PAHO/WHO Assistant Director he oversees the organization’s core programs for technical cooperation with its 35 Member States.

“We are seeing many challenges, socio-political changes, the reemergence of infectious diseases, climate change, antimicrobial resistance, the scourge of NCDs and violence amongst others,” said PAHO Director, Carissa F. Etienne. “The Organization is fortunate to have Dr. Barbosa as its Assistant Director at this time.”

Etienne also expressed her “full confidence in the technical and managerial competence,” of PAHO’s Assistant Director. “Dr. Barbosa perfectly understands and shares the values and missions of this great organization,” she said. “Indeed, his life’s work has reflected these values: excellence, solidarity, respect and integrity.”

Privilege, pride and commitment

“For me, to work at PAHO is indeed a privilege that I am very proud of and I am fully committed to join you and humbly bring my experience and expertise to serve the countries in the Americas,” said Barbosa.

In his new post, Dr. Barbosa is part of PAHO’s Executive Management team, along with PAHO Director Dr. Etienne and Deputy Director Isabela Danel. Dr. Barbosa oversees the departments of Family, Health Promotion and Life Course; Communicable Diseases and Environmental Determinants of Health; Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health; Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health; and Health Systems and Services.

Jarbas Barbosa swearing in ceremony with PAHO Executive Management members
Dr. Jarbas Barbosa at his swearing in ceremony as PAHO/WHO Assistant Director with PAHO/WHO Executive Management members

In addition, three PAHO/WHO technical centers are under Dr. Barbosa’s responsibility: the Latin American Center for Perinatology – Women and Reproductive Health (CLAP), the Pan American Foot-and-Mouth Disease Center (PANAFTOSA) and the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information (BIREME).

Barbosa highlighted that PAHO has a long trajectory of leading the Region of the Americas towards health prevention, promotion and protection, with achievements that have been recognized all over the world. “However, despite so many clear achievements in ensuring the health of the people of the Americas, we now face tremendous challenges in ensuring that we can maintain these achievements today and continue advancing,” he warned.

“In this context, it is even more necessary to strengthen our technical team and their determination to seek innovative strategies focused on the communities and countries we serve

Barbosa highlighted the example of the need to maintain the achievements in the control and elimination of vaccine-preventable diseases. “New strategies must be developed and I urge governments at the highest level to renew their political commitment to vaccinating populations,” he said.

Barbosa also underscored the need to “continue advancing towards new and ever more ambitious results,” highlighting the major challenges in the region that are aggravated by economic difficulties and political instability in some countries. “In this context, it is even more necessary to strengthen our technical team and their determination to seek innovative strategies focused on the communities and countries we serve,” he concluded.

A career of more than 40 years

The Senator and former Brazilian Minister of Health, Humberto Costa Lima, highlighted that “Dr Barbosa leaves important marks of his work wherever he goes, as well as public recognition of his creativity, competence, capacity for dialogue and ethics.” 

Friends since 1972, classmates, and then colleagues in government, Costa Lima recalled how Barbosa’s capacities as a leader were already apparent during his years as a medical student, as was his “social commitment and his dedication to serving the population.” He also highlighted Barbosa as “an important actor in the fight for Sanitary Reform in Brazil, which culminated in the creation of a free, universal health care system.”

“Brazil has lost one of its greatest proponents of public health, but PAHO has gained a strategic actor in the construction of health for all,” concluded Cosa Lima.

Prior to being appointed PAHO/WHO Assistant Director, Barbosa was President and Director of Brazil's National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) from July 2015 until July 2018, after having worked since 2011 at the Brazilian Ministry of Health, first as the Secretary of Health Surveillance, and later as Secretary of Science, Technology and Strategic Supplies.

From 1997 until 2003, Barbosa held the position of Director of Brazil's National Center for Epidemiology (CENEPI). As part of this role he led the country's National Sanitary Surveillance, Prevention and Control System.

In 2007, Barbosa joined PAHO as Manager of Health Surveillance and Disease Care. He served in this position until April 2010.

His professional career in the field of public health began in 1982, when he began working for the State of Pernambuco's Health Department. There, he was appointed coordinator of the Sexually Transmitted Disease and HIV/AIDS Program. Then, he served as Municipal Health Secretary in Olinda and then Health Secretary for the State of Pernambuco.

Dr. Barbosa received his medical degree from the Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil. He specialized in public health and epidemiology at the National School of Public Health, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ). He holds a Master's degree in Medical Sciences and a PhD in public health from the University of Campinas, Brazil.