PAHO Director Wants Regional Countries To Adopt ‘One Health Policy’ As She Highlights COVID-19 Challenges

(CMC)— The Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) began its 59th Directing Council on Monday, with its director, Dr Carissa F Etienne, urging the adopting of a “one health policy” to allow for greater collaboration and coordination in dealing with health issues, as she presented her annual report focusing on the assistance the hemispheric body has provided to member states respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Dr Etienne presented the Organization’s Annual Report, summarising the technical cooperation provided to member countries.

The Dominican-born PAHO official presented the report, which covers the period from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 to regional health authorities, including Caribbean health ministers, who are attending the five-day Directing Council meeting virtually.

“The theme of this report – Working through the COVID-19 Pandemic – was chosen to reflect the difficult times and unprecedented challenges through which we navigated to deliver our technical cooperation during these last twelve months of the continuing global COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr Etienne said, as she presented the report.

“As countries focused on the COVID response over the past 18 months, certain essential public health programmes, such as immunization, cancer, malaria, HIV and TB and maternal health were disrupted with important negative impacts.

“What is noteworthy is that after every disaster, be it a natural disaster, a major disease outbreak like Ebola, or even a financial crisis, we all reaffirm our commitment to rebuilding health care systems and sadly if nothing else this pandemic has demonstrated that our continuing failure to deliver on this commitment does indeed carry a high price tag in terms of the millions of lives lost and also the economies that are destroyed,” she said.

Dr Etienne said she wanted to urge all member states to invest in their health sector “and swiftly ensure their transformation so they have the capacity to respond to the needs of all people every day and to better respond to pandemics and other disasters when they do occur”.

She also said that the spill-over of the SARS CVID-2 virus into human populations and the consequence global pandemic “should leave us with no doubt that the adoption of a one health approach is even more critical now given the shrinking global village in which we live.

“The one health proposal will allow for greater coordination, collaboration, police adherence and engagement across the different sectors of human, animal, plant and environmental health, extensive deforestation and destruction of habitats as well as numerous other activities have intensified the contact between animals, people and disease agents,” she added.

The report details a broad range of PAHO technical assistance, including delivery of vital COVID-19 equipment and supplies, and assistance in key areas such as routine immunization, prevention of non-communicable diseases, and increased access to health care.

It also describes and summarizes achievements in all of PAHO’s main areas of technical cooperation: health emergencies; health systems and services; communicable diseases and environmental determinants of health; family, health promotion, and life course; non-communicable diseases and mental health; evidence and intelligence for action in health; and gender, equity, and cultural diversity.

The report details PAHO’s work to improve internal efficiency and strengthen its support and facilitation of technical cooperation. It further describes PAHO’s efforts to ensure continued transparency and accountability in all its operations.

“I am happy to report that despite the immense hardships and complications, the Organization’s work continued undiminished, striving, as always, to fulfill those PAHO values of equity, excellence, solidarity, respect, and integrity, within the overarching framework of Pan Americanism,” Dr Etienne said.

Jamaica’s Health Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, will serve as president of the Directing Council meeting which PAHO said will analyse and debate the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

An update on COVID-19 in the region will also be provided on Wednesday, PAHO said, adding that discussions will also focus on resolutions, policies and roadmaps that aim to increase the production capacity of essential medicines and health technologies in the region, revitalize immunization as a public good, digitally transform the health sector, establish resilient health systems, and ensure post-pandemic recovery, among others.

It said that a series of side events to the Directing Council will take place during the week.