PAHO: Covid19 has exposed region's health system weaknesses

In this September 11, 2020 file photo a member of the public uses a drive-in facility to test for covid19 at a private hospital. - ROGER JACOB
In this September 11, 2020 file photo a member of the public uses a drive-in facility to test for covid19 at a private hospital. - ROGER JACOB

THE COVID19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in health systems in the region, said the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).

This was one of the findings of the 2020 Annual Report – Saving Lives and Improving Health and Well-Being.

"The pandemic exposed severe inequities in and among countries and highlighted the particular vulnerabilities of certain population groups. (The report) also 'laid bare profound structural weaknesses within health and social protection mechanisms in the region, highlighting the need for substantive reform and actions to ensure that countries continue toward the achievement of the ambitious goal of universal health by 2030.'”

PAHO said since well before the start of the pandemic a key area of the organisation's technical cooperation was building its member countries’ capacities to prepare for and respond to disease outbreaks and epidemics.

"Since the pandemic arrived in the Americas, PAHO has continued that work while providing regional leadership and coordination of the covid19 response and helping member countries protect gains in other vital areas, including immunisation, prevention of non-communicable diseases, and expanded access to quality health care."

PAHO director Carissa F Etienne presented the report Tuesday to health authorities from throughout the Americas who are meeting virtually this week for the 58th PAHO Directing Council.

The report notes that covid19 “has affected health, the economy, and the way of life in almost every country” in the Americas. The report summarises PAHO’s strategies, interventions, and achievements in its main areas of technical cooperation during the reporting period. These areas include: health systems and services; communicable diseases and environmental determinants of health; health emergencies; family, health promotion, and life course; non-communicable diseases and mental health; and evidence and intelligence for action in health.

The report also highlights special efforts to ensure improved health for all both during and beyond the pandemic, especially for those in conditions of vulnerability "reflecting the organisation’s overarching commitment to 'leave no one behind.'" The report described PAHO’s efforts to improve its internal efficiency and ensure continued transparency and accountability in all its operations.

“The health, social, and economic impacts of the pandemic will have far-reaching effects on progress for the achievement of national, subregional, regional, and global health goals on health financing and resource mobilisation, and on our efforts and aspirations for health development with equity,” Etienne said while presenting the report.

She added: “We fully recognise that massive and sustained interventions will be required in both the immediate and foreseeable future to control and contain covid19, to tackle increasing poverty levels, to reduce health and social inequalities and, very importantly, to position health at the centre of equitable and sustainable development.”

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