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Published in: 11/25/2015

PAHO/WHO Leaders Meet with Brazil’s Rousseff to Discuss Key Topics Affecting Americas Region

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Unbeknownst to most of the 2,000+ delegates gathering for the start of the 2nd Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety in Brasilia last week, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan, the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa F. Etienne, and PAHO/WHO's country representative in Brazil, Joaquín Molina, were meeting with the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff to discuss topics which impact many countries in the Americas. The informal 10-minute meet and greet turned into a 40-minute conversation.

Rousseff thanked PAHO/WHO for their support in organizing the Conference and praised Chan and Etienne for PAHO's ongoing commitment to the Mais Médicos program, mentioning that it was essential to the success of the initiative. Chan reaffirmed the mutual benefits of the partnership, with Brazil's overarching success with health programs, which offers many helpful lessons to WHO and its member states around the world.

Rousseff and Brazil's Minister of Health, Marcelo Castro, updated Chan, Etienne and Molina about the incidence of zika, chikungunya and dengue. Brazil's dignitaries also mentioned the work that had been done to identify a cause for the raise of microcephaly rates across the country, particularly in the Northwestern region. Chan declared that Brazil is taking all the necessary steps and indicated that PAHO/WHO would continue to work very closely with the Brazilian government on this matter. Chan, Etienne and Molina told Rousseff that the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) would also be available to the country, if it were to be requested.

Universal health coverage was also a hot topic that was touched upon during the encounter. Chan praised the achievements of the country's Sistema Único de Saúde (Unified Health System), exemplifying it as an international model for many member states that are developing health strategies and policies. She and Etienne encouraged them to keep up the good work on road safety and highlighted the importance of increasing measures to reduce deaths and injuries.

Castro mentioned the initiatives taken to improve road safety in Brazil, including efforts to restrict drinking and driving and the tighter enforcement of car seats for infants and toddlers. Brazil's health minister also invited Etienne and Chan to participate in an international high-level meeting, "Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science," co-hosted by the governments of the UK and Brazil and the Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), to be held next June in London. The event follows the UK-Brazil Hunger Summit held in London last summer, which highlighted the devastating consequences of under nutrition in children.