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Published in: 10/02/2023

At PAHO’s 60th Directing Council, health authorities of the Americas agree to take urgent action to recuperate gains lost during COVID-19 pandemic

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The 60th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization was convened in the United States capital from 25-28 September. During the meeting, ministers and high-level health authorities from the Americas, adopted 12 resolutions to strengthen health policies in the Americas and recover gains lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While “we have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot let our guard down,” PAHO Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa said. “We need to take this as an opportunity to accelerate action to recuperate lost public health gains and increase resiliency in our health systems.”

Dr. Barbosa highlighted the importance of ensuring that countries engage in efforts to increase their preparedness and response to future pandemics and public health emergencies, urging  PAHO Member States to “actively participate in the discussions regarding the revision of the International Health Regulations and the Intergovernmental Negotiation Body in WHO.”

The 12 resolutions of the 60th Directing Council include:

Strengthening human resources for health to achieve resilient health systems, which aims to strengthen the creation and training of interprofessional health teams, particularly in underserved areas of the Region. It also aims to promote decent working conditions for health personnel and to support countries in developing national policies and plans, as well as regulatory mechanisms, for human resources for health.

Prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases in children, adolescents, and young adults. This resolution seeks to strengthen surveillance, as well as primary health care services for screening, diagnosis and treatment of NCDs among children, adolescents, and young adults. It also promotes improvements in health promotion, NCDs preventions, and NCDs risk factor reduction.

Improving mental health and suicide prevention in the Region of the Americas. This resolution promotes the implementation of an intersectoral, equity- and human rights-based approach to promoting and protecting mental health that includes everyone. It also supports the transition from long-stay mental health institutionalization to community-based services, and tackles suicide prevention.

On Monday 25 September, health authorities also discussed efforts to improve pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. During the session, PAHO presented a series of recommendations based on the external evaluation of the Organization’s response to the pandemic, including strengthening funding mechanisms and capitalizing on new technologies.

On Tuesday 26 September, PAHO’s Elimination Initiative, which seeks to put an end to more than 30 communicable diseases and related conditions in Latin America and the Caribbean, received new impetus, with Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Brazil and Uruguay presenting their renewed efforts towards elimination.

During this session, Dr. Barbosa highlighted the importance of harnessing the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to accelerate the pace of the elimination initiative.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs)“continue to be the main cause of poor health, disability, and death in the Region of the Americas and represent 81% of general mortality,” the PAHO Director said.

The Better Care for NCDs: Accelerating Actions in Primary Health Care initiative, launched on Wednesday 27 September, aims to address this by expanding access to non-communicable disease (NCD) services within Primary Health Care systems.

Five final reports were also presented during the week-long meeting, including on the elimination of neglected infectious diseases; tobacco control in the Region of the Americas; strengthening vital statistics;  chronic kidney disease in agricultural communities in central America; and health and tourism.

“We all agree that while we continue to build on our collective successes, much remains to be done to address persistent health challenges,” the PAHO Director said.

“Today, as we say goodbye, I would like to respectfully ask that we recommit ourselves to the Pan American values of fairness, excellence, solidarity, respect and integrity.”