PAHO’s Initiative to Eliminate Over 30 Infectious Diseases and Curb NCDs in the Americas
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in a recent stride forward, has approved the Elimination Initiative, a comprehensive plan aiming to eliminate over 30 transmissible diseases in Latin America and the Caribbean. The initiative also seeks to address the significant challenge of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) within the region, which are currently the leading cause of poor health, disability, and death. These concerted efforts are part of the strategic vision discussed at the 60th Directing Council of PAHO, held in Washington D.C.
Addressing the Burden of Non-Communicable Diseases
At the 60th Directing Council, Ministers of Health and other high-ranking authorities agreed to roll out a series of interventions focused on children, adolescents, and young adults. The objective is to prevent the development of NCDs, which account for 81% of overall mortality in the Americas. The Director of the PAHO emphasized the critical need to address NCDs, which continue to be the main cause of poor health, disability, and death in the region.
The interventions target mental health improvement, suicide prevention, and control of NCDs among young people. This approach aligns with the global health promotion mandate for the Americas, which focuses on modifying social, environmental, and economic conditions to positively impact individual and collective health. It seeks to empower communities and foster intersectoral cooperation to create conditions that ensure health and well-being for all, leaving no one behind.
The Elimination Initiative: A Comprehensive Approach
The Elimination Initiative (EI) approved in 2019, promotes a life-course, person-centered approach with four dimensions: interrupting endemic transmission, ending mortality, ending morbidity, and preventing disability. This integrated, sustainable strategy is part of the broader health sector response to commitments endorsed by PAHO Member States, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, along with unfinished business from the Millennium Development Goals and emerging regional public health challenges.
Smart Health Facilities and Resilience
PAHO also emphasizes the importance of resilient health systems and infrastructure. The Smart Hospital initiative, operationalized in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Kitts and Nevis, focuses on improving hospitals’ resilience, strengthening structural and operational aspects and providing green technologies. The initiative has proven to be cost-effective and resilient to disasters, with Smart Hospitals remaining functional during emergencies and disasters, thus ensuring continued health service delivery.
PAHO’s Efforts in Mental Health Promotion
With the approval of the Comprehensive mental health action plan 2013-2020 by the World Health Assembly, PAHO has been championing mental health promotion and prevention programs in the region. The plan includes developing and implementing programs for promotion and prevention in the context of mental health systems and services. PAHO’s regional Plan of Action on Mental Health aims to contribute to mental well-being, prevent mental disorders, and promote persons with mental disorders to exercise their human rights and attain the highest possible level of health.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, PAHO established the High-level Commission on Mental Health and COVID-19 to support the regional improvement and strengthening of mental health. This initiative underscores the organization’s commitment to addressing mental health challenges in the Americas during the pandemic and beyond.
These proactive strategies and initiatives by PAHO reflect a comprehensive, multi-dimensional approach to health promotion and disease prevention in the Americas. By addressing both transmissible diseases and NCDs, and stressing the importance of resilient health systems and mental health, PAHO is paving the way towards a healthier future for the region.
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