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UN unveils global influenza strategy to prevent ‘real’ threat of pandemic

A new UN-led plan has been unveiled to tackle the estimated one billion cases of influenza which occur each year, and protect against the “real” threat of a global pandemic, the head of the organization’s health agency said on Monday.

Announcing the revised Global Influenza Strategy for 2019-2030World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, warned that the “question is not if we will have another pandemic, but when”.

“The threat of pandemic influenza is ever-present,” he said, noting that the risk of a new influenza virus transmitting from animals to humans and potentially leading to a pandemic is “real”.

Influenza remains one of the world’s greatest public health challenges, according to the WHO, which says that the viral respiratory disease is responsible for between 290,000 and 650,000 related deaths a year.

Globalization, urbanization and mobility will result in the next pandemic moving faster and further, the agency maintains, while also underlining that those infected with the virus can face other health threats, such as heart attacks, strokes and severe pneumonia.

utbreaks highlight pressures on poorer countries

The WHO’s 11-year plan focuses on the formulation of robust national programmes and has three goals: reducing seasonal influenza, minimizing the risk of transmission from animals to humans, and limiting the impact of a pandemic.

In addition, WHO is calling for better tools to prevent, detect, control and treat influenza, such as more efficient vaccines and anti-viral drugs.

Influenza outbreaks tend to emphasise the pressures faced by health systems in low and middle-income countries in particular, WHO says, insisting that investing in influenza-prevention measures will encourage a rapid response to many other infectious diseases.

An outbreak in Madagascar in 2002 had a 2.5 per cent fatality ratio, which is very similar to the 1918-1919 pandemic, WHO says, noting that the cost of pandemic preparedness globally is estimated at $4.5 billion a year, which is less than one per cent of the estimated cost needed to respond to a “medium-to-severe” pandemic.

“A severe pandemic can result in millions of deaths globally, with widespread social and economic effects, including a loss of national economic productivity and severe economic burdens on affected citizens and communities” WHO says.

[ story originally posted on UN News ]

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WHO: Spending on health increase faster than rest of global economy

Spending on health is outpacing the rest of the global economy, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

According to the UN health agency, “countries are spending more on health, but people are still paying too much out of their own pockets”.

The agency’s new report on global health expenditure launched on Wednesday reveals that “spending on health is outpacing the rest of the global economy, accounting for 10 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP).

The trend is particularly noticeable in low- and middle-income countries where health spending is growing on average six per cent annually compared with four per cent in high-income countries.

 Health spending is made up of government expenditure, out-of-pocket payments and other sources, such as voluntary health insurance and employer-provided health programmes.

While reliance on out-of-pocket expenses is slowly declining around the world, the report notes that in low- and middle-income countries, domestic public funding for health is increasing and external funding in middle-income countries, declining.

Highlighting the importance of increasing domestic spending for achieving universal health coverage and the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, said that this should be seen as “an investment in poverty reduction, jobs, productivity, inclusive economic growth, and healthier, safer, fairer societies.”

Worldwide, governments provide an average of 51 per cent of a country’s health spending, while more than 35 per cent of health spending per country comes from out-of-pocket expenses. One consequence of this is 100 million people pushed into extreme poverty each year, the report stresses.

[ full story on UN News ]

 

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Measles cases nearly doubled in a year, UN health agency projects

A projected near-doubling of measles infections has been identified amid rising severe and protracted outbreaks all over the planet, in poor and rich countries alike, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

The appeal to Member States to close gaps in vaccine coverage follows the previously announced news that an estimated 110,000 people died from the highly infectious but easily preventable disease in 2017.

“Measles is not going anywhere…It’s everyone’s responsibility,” said Dr. Katherine O’Brien, Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at WHO. “For one person infected, up to nine or 10 people could catch the virus.”

In addition to being potentially fatal, measles symptoms include rashes, blindness and inflammation of the brain. The virus can be transmitted extremely easily, by coughing and sneezing, and it can also survive for hours in a droplet of water.

It knows no “geographical or political borders”, Dr. O’Brien said, noting nonetheless that since the year 2000, deaths from measles have fallen by over 80 per cent “probably saving around 21 million lives” in that period.

Disease burden in 2018 almost double previous 12-month tally

The WHO alert follows its announcement that as of mid-January this year, it had seen 229,068 reported cases of measles during 2018, in 183 Member States, which have until April to file data on the previous year’s disease burden.

This is almost double the 115,117 cases reported at the same point last year, and WHO’s concern is based on the fact that the final number of infections rose to 173,330.

“Due to reporting delays and outbreaks late in 2018, we expect that these numbers will increase, as they have done in previous years,” the agency said in a statement.

Measles infections ‘increased in all regions’

By region in 2018, Africa saw 33,879 measles infections; of these, 4,391 were from Madagascar alone, where 922 deaths have been reported in an ongoing outbreak that began last October.

The Americas recorded nearly 17,000 cases of measles in 2018, the Eastern Mediterranean, just under 22,000. In Europe, there were 82,596 infections in 47 of 53 countries, ahead of South-East Asia (73,133) and the Western Pacific (23,607).

To prevent outbreaks and eliminate measles, WHO urges countries to sustain high immunization coverage with two doses of measles vaccine, a regimen which has been administered to “billions” of children, Dr. O’Brien told journalists in Geneva.

“We’re backsliding on the progress that has been made, not because we don’t have the tools, but because we’re not vaccinating,” she insisted.

 

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A third of all countries in the Americas have still not implemented effective tobacco control measures

Washington D.C, 29 August 2018 (PAHO/WHO) – While progress has been made to address the tobacco epidemic in the Americas, over one-third of countries in the region has yet to implement the highest level of effective tobacco control measures. Governments must urgently increase efforts to apply these measures and save lives, says new Regional Report on Tobacco Control in the Americas 2018 from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

The number of tobacco users in the region has dropped to just 17%, which is below the global average of 20%. However, this means that one in every five adults above the age of 15 still uses tobacco, one of the main causes of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

Countries have committed to implementing measures to reduce premature mortality from these diseases by one-third by 2030, in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals. PAHO’s report highlights that it is vital that countries step up efforts to increase tobacco control measures in order to meet this objective.

“While we are certainly heading in the right direction when it comes to reducing the number of tobacco users and protecting the population from the adverse effects of tobacco exposure, we are just not moving fast enough. The fact remains that more than two thousand people die each day in the Americas as a direct consequence of tobacco use and this epidemic will continue unless countries accelerate the speed at which effective policies are being implemented.” ..   Dr. Anselm Hennis, Director of the Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health Unit at PAHO.

The new report highlights progress that countries in the Americas have made towards implementing the measures outlined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which aims to protect present and future generations from the devastating consequences of tobacco use and exposure. These measures include regulations to protect people from tobacco smoke by establishing 100% smoke-free environments; the mandatory inclusion of large, graphic health warnings on all tobacco packaging; raising taxes on tobacco; and a total ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. The report shows that 12 out of 35 countries in the Americas have yet to implement even one of these effective tobacco control measures.

PAHO 2018 report on tobaccooThe report also shows that while implementation of tobacco control measures has increased in the region over the past decade, progress has recently slowed down.

The two most implemented tobacco control measures in the Americas are those that protect against exposure to tobacco smoke through 100% smoke-free environments, and mandatory health warnings on all tobacco packaging, implemented in 19 and 18 countries respectively, two more for each measure than in 2016.

Fourteen countries in the Americas have reduced the affordability of tobacco products, increasing the price of the most popular brand of cigarettes in relation to income. The report highlights the case of Argentina, which raised taxes on tobacco products to comprise 75% of their retail price. Colombia and Peru have also significantly increased taxes on tobacco products.

Even so, since 2016, just one country in the region has banned tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, bringing the total number of countries implementing this measure to six.

“The increase in the number of countries to have put into effect at least one effective tobacco control measure is reassuring,” said Dr. Adriana Blanco, Chief of the Risk Factors and Nutrition Unit at PAHO. “But since 2016, the number of countries to have implemented at least four measures remains unchanged, at six. If we are to effectively protect populations against the impact of tobacco use, we need to go much further and ensure that more measures are implemented.”

Progress in the Caribbean

One of the main areas of progress in the last two years outlined in the report occurred in the Caribbean, although it remains the subregion with the lowest number of countries to have implemented the measures outlined in the WHO FCTC.

Guyana was highlighted due to the passing of its comprehensive tobacco control law in 2017. This law now positions the country among the most compliant in three areas: protecting people from tobacco smoke; bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and mandatory large graphic health warnings on all tobacco packaging. Saint Lucia and Barbados are following suit with the approval of measures to include mandatory health warnings on tobacco product packaging.

“We welcome recent efforts from the Caribbean to begin the implementation of effective tobacco control measures and we hope this will show other countries in the sub-region the long-term benefits that measures will have on their economies and, most importantly, the health of their populations,” said Dr. Hennis.

 

Threats to ensuring tobacco control

The report highlights interference from the tobacco industry as an ongoing threat to the swift and effective implementation of tobacco control measures, as is the availability of new tobacco products on the market, which are widely and aggressively advertised to potential new consumers.

“It is vital that the region renews its commitment to overcoming these challenges,” said Dr. Hennis. “South-south cooperation must be strengthened in order to share best practices, and more regional studies must be carried out so that we can be better informed as to what works best in the region’s ongoing efforts on tobacco control.

MPOWER Measures

One of the primary strategies to support the implementation of the FCTC is the WHO MPOWER measures, which calls for government action on six areas: Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies (M); Protect people from tobacco smoke (P); Offer help to quit tobacco use (O); Warn about the dangers of tobacco (W); Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (E); Raise taxes on tobacco (R).

The new report evaluates progress that countries in the Americas have made towards the implementation of these six measures, four of which have been defined as best buys for the prevention and control of NCDs.

Preparatory meeting for the Conference of the Parties

The report is being launched during the regional preparatory meeting for the Eighth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP8) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which is taking place in Washington D.C. from the 28 to 30 August 2018. This meeting brings together representatives from Ministries of Health and Ministries of Foreign Affairs of countries that are parties to the WHO FCTC from all over the region of the Americas, to discuss the main opportunities and challenges regarding tobacco control and how best to protect the population.

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The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) works with the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their populations.
 Founded in 1902, it is the world’s oldest international public health agency. It serves as the Regional Office of WHO for the Americas and is the specialized health agency of the Inter-American system.

 

 LINKS

Regional Report on Tobacco Control, 2018

WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC)

Strategy and Plan of Action to Strengthen Tobacco Control in the Region of the Americas 2018-2022


 

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UN officials call for strong, people-focused health systems

 Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental human right at the opening of the seventy-first session of the World Health Assembly in Geneva.

The World Health Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the World Health Organization, WHO. It determines the agency’s polices, supervises financial policies, and reviews and approves the proposed programme budget.

“We need strong resilient systems that place people at the centre,” said Mr. Guterres.

“Universal health coverage provides the foundation to help us overcome the inequities that continue to leave so many behind.”

Ensuring that everyone, everywhere has access to quality health care and services, is also vital for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), stressed the UN chief.

In particular, Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3), which has specific targets to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being at all stages in life. In addition, health improvements feature prominently in many of the other ambitious Goals.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, also addressed the Assembly, emphasizing the importance of universal health coverage, as illustrated by the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The WHO chief outlined a number of initiatives at the UN health agency to advance universal coverage and urged greater political commitment: “It’s clear that the twin messages of health security and universal health coverage resonate loudly with world leaders,” he said.

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    [ read the full story at UN News ]

 

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High-level meeting will gather Caribbean leaders from different sectors to discuss the use of law to help reduce noncommunicable diseases

Port of Spain, March 9 (PAHO/WHO) — Government ministers from different sectors will meet with academicians, judges from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), representatives of the CARICOM Secretariat, organs and institutions and civil society, on March 10 to discuss that the use of laws and regulations to help reduce noncommunicable diseases, which account for three out of four deaths in Caribbean.

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases, together with their four shared risk factors  tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity  are the leading causes of death, illness and disability in the Caribbean. High rates of NCDs are the reason that people in the Caribbean have a greater probability of dying prematurely (before age 70) than people from any other subregion of the Americas.

The meeting, which will take place in Port of Spain, will bring members of the CCJ Academy of Law together with representatives of relevant CARICOM organs and institutions, subregional partners, and international organizations to discuss policies and strategies for using the law as a powerful tool to address NCDs, focusing particularly on tobacco control legislation and laws and regulations that can help prevent obesity.

The meeting is organized by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the Caribbean Court of Justice Academy of Law and FAO.

PAHO/WHO is encouraging Caribbean authorities to adopt effective laws and regulations that can contribute to reducing the burden of NCDs and their risk factors as well as their social and economic consequences.


Although progress remains insufficient, there are examples of best practices in the Caribbean that could to be scaled up. They include taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, bans on the sale of sugary beverages in schools, and progress on tobacco control legislation in several countries. Caribbean heads of government and other CARICOM leaders have repeatedly called for expanding such measures to help reduce NCDs.

Representatives of Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago will present their countries’ experiences and lessons learned in using laws and regulations to address NCDs. Other subjects will include the role of community law in addressing NCDs, how to mobilize political will to advance the use of legal measures, and how to harmonize policy approaches to face this challenge.

WHAT: “High-Level Meeting on the Use of Law to Tackle Noncommunicable Diseases: A critical step to accelerate progress in the Caribbean”

WHEN: Saturday, March 10, 2018, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm

WHERE: Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port of Spain, Trinidad

  • WHO

    • Sir George Alleyne, PAHO Director Emeritus
    • Sir Dennis Bryon, President of the Caribbean Court of Justice
    • The Hon Minister Dr. Terrance Deyalsingh, Minister of Health of Trinidad and Tobago
    • The Hon Minister Mrs. Volda Laurence, Minister of Health of Guyana
    • The Hon Minister Ing. Patrick Pengel, Minister of Health of Suriname, Chair of the CARICOM Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD)
    • The Hon Minister Mrs Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minister of Trade and Industry of Trinidad and Tobago, Chair of the Council of Trade and Economic Development (COTED)
    • Justice Winston Anderson, Judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice
    • Dr. Douglas Salter, Assistant Secretary-General, CARICOM Directorate for Human and Social Development
    • Mr. Joseph Cox, Assistant Secretary-General, CARICOM Directorate for Trade and Economic Integration
    • Dr. Corlita Babb-Schaefer, CARICOM General Counsel
    • Amb Courtenay Rattray. Ambassador Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the United Nations
    • Sir Trevor Hassel, President, Healthy Caribbean Coalition
    • Dr. James Hospedales, Executive Director, Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA)
    • Mr. Barton Clarke, Executive Director, Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI)
    • Mr. Deryck Omar, Chief Executive Officer, CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ)
    • Dr. David Berry, Dean, Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados
    • Dr. Leighton Jackson, Dean, Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica

    Complete list of participants available here: http://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_view&gid=43984&Itemid=270  

AGENDA OF THE EVENT: http://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_view&gid=43983&Itemid=270

CONTACT:

Dr. Edwin Bolastig, PAHO Trinidad and Tobago Representative a.i., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dr. Taraleem Malcolm, NCD and Mental Health Advisor, PAHO Trinidad and Tobago, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Careless disposal of antibiotics could produce ‘ferocious superbugs,’ UN environment experts warn

Growing antimicrobial resistance linked to the discharge of drugs and some chemicals into the environment is one of the most worrying health threats today, according to new research from the United Nations that highlights emerging challenges and solutions in environment.

“The warning here is truly frightening: we could be spurring the development of ferocious superbugs through ignorance and carelessness,” said Erik Solheim, chief of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), on Tuesday.

“The warning here is truly frightening: we could be spurring the development of ferocious superbugs; through ignorance and carelessness,”

Erik Solheim
Chief of UN Environment

He added that studies have already linked the misuse of antibiotics in humans and agriculture over the last several decades to increasing resistance, but the role of the environment and pollution has received little attention. As such, the Frontiers Report, launched on the second day of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), which is running through 6 December at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, looks at the environmental dimension of antimicrobial resistance in nanomaterials; marine protected areas; sand and dust storms; off-grid solar solutions; and environmental displacement – finding the role of the environment in the emergence and spread of resistance to antimicrobials particularly concerning.

“This needs priority action right now, or else we run the risk of allowing resistance to occur through the back door, with potentially terrifying consequences,” stressed Mr. Solheim.

Read the full story at UN News Centre

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Free from Polio: World Polio Day

“We need to focus on leaving no child unvaccinated, no matter how difficult it is to reach them,” says, World Health organization (WHO) polio coordinator Mohammed Mohammedi, for twenty years. World Polio Day, 24 October, is an opportunity to recognize the work of committed WHO staff members like Mohammedi.

Polio is a virus that can cause incurable paralysis.
In 1988, polio paralysed 10 children for life every 15 minutes, in nearly every country in the world. Today, there are only 3 countries that are still fighting polio, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

WHO staff play an important role in polio eradication from local to global levels. For example, WHO Surveillance Officers in Somalia have trained a network of more than 500 parents, students, and community leaders to identify every case of acute flaccid paralysis to stop infection immediately.

Through these efforts, more than 16 million people are walking today who would otherwise have been paralysed for life. More than 400 million children are vaccinated every year.

However, there is more to be done. There are more children who should be vaccinated.

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Polluted environments kill 1.7 million children each year, UN health agency reports

6 March 2017 – Unhealthy environments are responsible for one-quarter of young child deaths, according to two new reports from the United Nations health agency, which reviewed the threats from pollutants such as second-hand smoke, UV radiation, unsafe water and e-waste.

According to the latest information, polluted environments take the lives of 1.7 million children under the age of five.

“A polluted environment is a deadly one – particularly for young children,” said Margaret Chan, Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO). “Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”

In one of the two reports, Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children's Health and the Environment , WHO announced that many of the common causes of death among children aged between one month and five years of age are preventable with safe water and clear cooking fuels. These include diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia.

The main pollutant is in the air, resulting in 570,000 deaths each year among children under five years old. Air pollution can stunt brain development and reduce lung function and trigger asthma. In the longer-term, exposure to air pollution can increase the child's risk of contracting heart disease, a stroke or cancer.

To counter such exposure, WHO recommends reducing air pollution, improving safe water and sanitation, and protecting pregnant women and building safer environments, among other actions described in Don't pollute my future! The impact of the environment on children's health .

“Investing in the removal of environmental risks to health, such as improving water quality or using cleaner fuels, will result in massive health benefits,” said Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.

One of the emerging environmental threats to children is electronic and electrical waste, according to the second WHO report. Appliances such as old mobile phones that are improperly recycled “expose children to toxins which can lead to reduced intelligence, attention deficit, lung damage, and cancer,” the UN agency reported.

At the current rate, the amount of such waste is expected to increase by 19 per cent between 2014 and 2018, up to 50 million metric tonnes.

The reports also point out harmful chemicals that work themselves through the food chain – such as fluoride, lead and mercury, as well as the impact that climate change and UV rays have on children's development.

 


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PAHO Director to visit Guyana for new country cooperation strategy

Georgetown, Guyana, 5 February 2017 (PAHO/WHO) — The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, plans to visit Guyana from Feb. 5 to 8 to meet with high-level government officials and sign a new strategy for technical cooperation in health.

Her visit will include working meetings and courtesy visits with Prime Minister, Hon. Moses Nagamooto, First Lady Sandra Granger and Minister of Public Health, Hon. Dr. Volda Lawrence and her staff. 

Dr. Etienne will be accompanied during her visit by PAHO Chief of Staff Dr. Merle Lewis and PAHO/WHO Representative in Guyana Dr. William Adu-Krow.

A top subject for discussion will be the reconstitution and relaunch of Guyana’s National Non-communicable Diseases Commission, which PAHO/WHO considers especially important since noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) account for 70% of deaths in Guyana. Other subjects that are expected to be discussed include universal health coverage and health financing, tobacco control legislation, health systems strengthening, human resources in health, and the health of women, adolescents, and older adults.

During her visit, Dr. Etienne is also scheduled to meet with Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Carl Greenidge, Minister of Finance, Hon. Winston Jordan, and Deputy Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM) Dr. Douglas Slater, among others. Her agenda also includes a visit to a health center.

The country cooperation strategy (CCSs) that is expected to be signed is a mutually agreed instrument to guide PAHO’s work in the country. PAHO CCSs, which are developed with each PAHO Member State, are aligned with country priorities and also with the work plans of the World Health Organization (WHO), PAHO, the United Nations and other collaboration platforms, which facilitates an intersectoral approach to priority health problems. The agreements also incorporate core PAHO principles such as the right to health, equity, solidarity and diversity. 

Guyana is one of eight “key countries” where PAHO places greater emphasis on its technical cooperation to ensure that equity gaps are closed.  

About Dr. Etienne

 

official photo of PAHO DirectorDr. Carissa F. Etienne, a native of Dominica, was elected Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) on September 2012. From March 2008 until 1 November 2012, Dr. Etienne served as Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Services at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Prior to that, as Assistant Director of PAHO from July 2003 to February 2008, she led five technical areas: Health Systems and Services; Technology, Health Care and Research; Health Surveillance and Disease Management; Family and Community Health; and Sustainable Development and Environmental Health.

During her tenures at WHO and PAHO, Dr. Etienne led the efforts to renew primary health care and to strengthen health systems based on primary health care, promoting integration and improved functioning of health systems. She has also spearheaded policy directions for reducing health inequalities and advancing health for all through universal coverage, people-centered care, the integration of health into broader public policies, and inclusive and participatory health leadership.

 

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