PAHO director says COVID-19 has exacerbated inequities in health system in the region

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

The director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr Jarbas Barbosa, Friday said despite the tremendous progress made, inequities persist in the region of the Americas, including the Caribbean, and they have been exacerbated by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a message to observe World Health Day (WHD), Barbosa said the pandemic, which has been blamed for thousands of deaths and infections in the region, has significantly impacted people’s health and lives, as well as the conditions for development in the countries of the region.

“It has exposed and deepened structural challenges faced by health systems, affecting response capacity and deepening inequities,” he said, noting that during the crisis, essential health services were disrupted and those receiving COVID-19 patients were overwhelmed by high demand.

“Despite the efforts made, maintaining continuity of service remains difficult,” the recently elected PAHO director said, adding that the pandemic also caused shortages and inequities in access to essential medicines and other health technologies.

He stated that the pandemic also significantly increased existing access barriers to health services and generated new ones.

“We aspire to develop and achieve resilient health systems that have the capacity to prepare for an emergency and respond effectively, maintain basic functions during a crisis, and reorganise and transform if conditions so require” he added.

“As we progress through the pandemic, it has become clear that the Primary Health Care strategy is the key to achieving this, because the fundamental component of a resilient health system is efficient primary care, with the capacity to coordinate health promotion, disease prevention and surveillance, and care for the most prevalent health problems in our communities,” Barbosa continued.

Barbosa said that now more than ever, in the context of the region of the Americas, health for all – which is the theme for WHD – is a call to reaffirm our commitment to primary health care to build resilient systems, and it is a call to redouble our efforts to achieve this.

WHD coincides with activities marking the 75th anniversary of the creation of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This is a great opportunity to highlight the achievements made in recent decades, the major advances in public health that have improved the quality of people’s lives, and the lessons learned while recognising the challenges that lie ahead,” the PAHO director said.

“Health for All has been our top objective throughout all these years. And despite the tremendous progress we have made, inequities persist in the region of the Americas and have been exacerbated by COVID-19.”

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