The Pan American Health Organization’s new 2020-2025 strategic plan, which sets out action to reduce the main causes of death and illness in the Americas while addressing persisting inequities in health, was outlined in a health ministers meeting on Oct. 1.
PAHO Director Dr. Carissa F. Etienne said in introducing the plan: “Our region faces a number of political, social, and economic challenges. I choose to focus on what we have in common—our desire for freedom, for justice, for economic opportunity, and for health and well-being. I believe that we are united in our fundamental humanity, and I truly believe that in order to fully realize this humanity, we cannot and must not leave anyone behind.”
The strategic plan notes that “sustained economic development in the region, with improvements in public sanitation, housing, nutrition, and health care, has driven significant advances in health outcomes” in the Americas, but significant inequities in health persist, with worse health outcomes for populations living in conditions of vulnerability.
Looking at the changing picture of health, the new plan sets goals and action for reducing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are now the top causes of death and illness throughout the Americas, having passed communicable diseases and maternal and neonatal conditions as causes of ill health, disability, and mortality in all countries of the hemisphere.
Taking lessons from past public health emergencies such as the 2009 influenza pandemic and the Zika epidemic, the new plan also seeks to build countries’ preparedness for disease outbreaks and other health emergencies.
The plan sets forth “a more integrated approach to technical cooperation, with an emphasis on comprehensive, integrated, and quality health services, with systems based on primary health care and using innovative models of care, in line with the Organization’s commitment to universal health.”
PAHO’s Directing Council meetings provide a forum for discussion and joint action on health issues of regional concern, providing crucial guidance for PAHO’s technical cooperation with its member countries.