52nd PAHO Directing Council ends with "a clear consensus" to work toward universal health coverage, says PAHO Director

Washington, DC, 4 October, 2013 (PAHO/WHO) — Health authorities from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean agreed this week on a series of joint actions to improve their countries' health systems, advance toward universal health coverage, and work with other sectors to improve social, environmental and economic conditions that impact on people's health.

The actions were set out in a series of plans and strategies approved by the 52nd Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO), which concluded today after a week of deliberations.

PAHO/WHO Member States agreed on joint initiatives to:

  • Reduce deaths and illness from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, through improvements in health systems and through all-of-society and all-of-government action to reduce key risk factors including tobacco use, poor diets, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol.
  • Ensure equal access to quality health care without discrimination for lesbians, homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexual (LGBT) people.
  • Support research on the causes of the alarming number of cases of chronic kidney disease (CKD) of nontraditional causes in agricultural communities in Central America, and improve care for these patients.
  • Increase the number of trained health personnel needed in primary health care services, especially in remote and difficult-to-reach areas.
  • Step up efforts to expand social protection in health to advance toward universal health coverage.

Other initiatives were approved on the use of scientific evidence in policymaking on immunization, expanding country-to-country cooperation in health, and implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR), which govern how countries throughout the world report and respond to outbreaks with the potential to spread internationally.

A number of progress reports on initiatives approved at previous meetings were presented during the meeting, including reports on neonatal health, elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis, achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), an action plan to reduce drug abuse, and the elimination of onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, from the Americas.

PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne presented her annual report, which highlights regional achievements and PAHO/WHO technical cooperation initiatives for 2012-2013. During the meeting, delegates participated in presentations and discussions on special subjects including neglected tropical diseases in the Americas, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and influenza A(H7N9), the drug problem in the Americas, social determinants of health (environmental, social and economic conditions that affect people's health), health in the post-2015 development agenda, and progress in the Americas toward universal health coverage.

Delegates also approved a new strategic plan for PAHO/WHO for 2014-2019 and a corresponding program and budget for 2014-2015, both of which include progress toward universal health coverage as an overarching priority.

Etienne told delegates that "a clear Pan American consensus has emerged that universal health coverage is essential if we are to improve human health and well-being; to eradicate or eliminate diseases; to reduce morbidity and mortality gaps; and to especially reduce those inequities that perpetuate human suffering in our countries, thus inhibiting the full realization of human dignity and human potential and preventing the full participation of each and every person in our region's development."

PAHO is the world's oldest international public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples.

 

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