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HomeNewsRegional NewsPAHO wants adequate financing to ensure resilient health systems in the Caribbean

PAHO wants adequate financing to ensure resilient health systems in the Caribbean

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Washington (CMC) The director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr Jarbas Barbosa has called for greater investment in public health in the Americas, including the Caribbean, to ensure health systems are better able to respond to the demands of a future emergency while maintaining essential services.

Dr Barbosa was a panelist at the “Financing for Health & Pandemics in a Multi-Crisis World” discussion at Georgetown University here that focussed on lessons learned from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and measures that must be taken to improve health system preparedness for future emergencies.

In his contribution, the PAHO director noted that while countries of the Americas were able to direct more funds towards emergency response at the height of COVID-19, regular spending on public health remains far below the recommended six per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) “leaving the region’s health systems insufficiently prepared for a future pandemic.

“COVID-19 had a huge impact on Latin America and the Caribbean, not only in terms of cases and deaths but also on routine services,” Dr Barbosa said, noting that “progress in addressing maternal mortality has been set back 10 years.

“Hundreds of thousands of children have not received routine vaccinations. People have experienced delays in cancer treatment. People with hypertension – one of the biggest killers in our region – have been unable to get their medicines. This is not sustainable.

“On the positive side, this is the first time we had everyone’s attention on public health. Health must now be at the center of economic recovery, ensuring sustainable development.”

Dr Barbosa said the approval of the new pandemic instrument at the 2024 World Health Assembly will present countries with “a unique opportunity to address some of the failures experienced during COVID-19”.

He said these include unequal access to personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and vaccines, “which posed a significant challenge to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean”.

Dr Barbosa said solidarity was “one of the first victims of the pandemic”; and, in the future, must be translated into action.

“As we discuss the new pandemic instrument, we cannot go by market rules, where rich countries get access first and developing countries only 6-8 months later.

“Well-financed, universal health systems based on Primary Health Care, where we can reduce out-of-pocket expenditure and address other barriers to access is the only way to ensure the right to health in our region,” Dr Barbosa added.

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