PAHO Director, Ministers of Health of the Americas discuss renewed focus on Primary Health Care
April 5, 2023 –WASHINGTON, DC – The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, participated in a high-level dialogue with Ministers of Health and other health leaders of the Americas to discuss ways to strengthen and transform health systems in the region, using the Primary Health Care approach, to face current challenges and prepare for future health emergencies.
The event, Health for all: Strengthening primary healthcare to build resilient systems, took place today as part of the World Health Day commemorations and to honor the World Health Organization on the 75th anniversary of its creation.
The PAHO Director was joined by Dr Nisia Trinidade Lima, Minister of Health of Brazil, Dr. Frank C.S. Anthony, Minister of Health of Guyana, Dr. Francisco Alabi, Minister of Health of El Salvador, Juan Núñez Guadarrama, Coordinator, México Salud-Hable Coalition, and Dr. Jaime Urrego, Vice minister of Public Health, Colombia.
During the dialogue, Dr. Barbosa highlighted some of the achievements in primary care in the Americas over the past decades, including an increase in life expectancy, the eradication of endemic transmission of measles, rubella and congenital rubella, and a reduction in infant mortality.
Despite this progress, however, low levels of investment, fragmented health systems and limited response capacity at the first level of care mean that barriers to access health remain, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also “exposed, exacerbated, and created structural health system challenges” that have further deepened inequalities and affected response capacity and results in the field of public health, the Director said.
“We aspire to develop and achieve health systems that have the capacity to prepare for and respond effectively to an emergency, maintain basic functions when a crisis occurs, and reorganize and transform if conditions require,” Dr. Barbosa said.
The PAHO Director also highlighted that expanding primary health care is key to addressing the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), particularly given that 240 million people currently live with a chronic condition in the Americas.
To ensure a focus on primary health care, Dr. Barbosa urged countries to strengthen the stewardship of health authorities, the governance of health systems, improve social empowerment, and develop integrated health services focused on primary care.
“The leadership role of National Health Authorities is undeniable,” Dr. Barbosa added, thanking the Ministers for participating in the dialogue.
Countries must now invest in “creating, strengthening, and institutionalizing spaces for social participation where people can learn, participate, get involved, and hold health leaders and systems accountable to address collective needs,” he added.
“Achieving universal health in our Region requires our joint effort and collaboration. From the Pan American Health Organization, we reiterate our commitment to provide all our technical capacity to support Member States in achieving this objective.”