Caribbean health ministers agree on new five-year strategic plan

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says Caribbean health ministers attending the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland have agreed with each other on an ambitious new strategic plan for the next five years.

PAHO said on Wednesday that the Assembly’s 13th General Program of Work (GPW) is designed to help the world achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — with a particular focus on SDG3: ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages by 2030.

PAHO said the SDG3 sets three targets: To ensure that, by 2023, 1 billion more people benefit from universal health coverage; 1 billion more people are better protected from health emergencies; and 1 billion more people enjoy better health and well-being.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that achieving this “triple billion” target could save 29 million lives, according to PAHO.

Speaking to the Assembly, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told delegates that the new strategic plan was ambitious because “it has to be.”

Delegates noted that the organization will need to make a number of strategic shifts to achieve these targets, notably to step up its public health leadership; focus on impact in countries; and ensure that people can access authoritative and strategic information on matters that affect their health, PAHO said.

On Wednesday, PAHO said the debate turned to WHO’s work in emergencies.

Over the coming days, PAHO said delegates will make decisions relating to the International Health Regulations (2005), the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), cholera, tuberculosis, snakebite, physical activity, digital health, assistive technology, polio virus, and health conditions in the occupied Palestine territory.

The Assembly will also discuss other topics including access to essential medicines and vaccines, and women’s, children’s and adolescent’s health, PAHO said.

It said, on Tuesday, ministers and delegates from the Americas, including the Caribbean, began sharing their views on how to achieve “Health for all: Commit to universal health coverage”, the theme of general discussion at the plenary meeting of the 71st World Health Assembly.

PAHO said the region’s health ministers explained the measures they have taken to attain that objective and reaffirmed their commitment to achieving universal health.

“Primary health care is a key component that must be in place for achieving universal health coverage and the objective of health for all, and this was the main topic at an information session yesterday, with the participation of the Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Carissa F. Etienne,” the statement said.

Etienne said how “happy and hopeful” it made her to hear that “health for all” is once again a key term used in public health discussions, and that primary health care is recognized as having a key role in achieving universal health.

She listed the characteristics that primary health care should have in this new phase to effectively ensure universal health, according to PAHO.

It said the health ministers of Argentina, Ecuador and Jamaica participated in an itinerant event intended to stress the importance of Member States actively participating at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Noncommunicable Diseases.

The ministers discussed the burden that these diseases are putting on their countries and the measures they are taking to address them, PAHO said.

They all agreed that greater political commitment and especially action is vital for addressing the prevention and treatment of these diseases, according to PAHO.

As Wednesday day drew to a close, PAHO said its director met with the health ministers of the countries that are part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to review the regional bloc’s specific health issues.

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