Experts call for stronger, more resilient health systems to mitigate future health crises

The Pan American Health Organization says experts are calling for stronger, more resilient health systems to mitigate and manage future health crises in the Caribbean and other places.

Organization representatives said in Vancouver, Canada on Monday that health systems across the world are facing shocks and stresses brought about by infectious disease outbreaks, such as Zika and Ebola; the growing burden of long-term chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease; and longer life spans, which will test the resources and capacity of health systems to provide care and improve health.

To withstand these challenges and mitigate the effects of emerging and future crises, reps of the health group said the Fourth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, which runs from Monday through Friday, is calling for global leaders to learn the urgent lessons needed to build strong and resilient health systems.

Health Organization representatives are among more than 2,000 health practitioners, policymakers and researchers gathering in Vancouver this week to examine the biggest challenges facing health systems.

“Right now, we are at a key juncture,” said Sara Bennett, Chair of Health Systems Global, organizer of the symposium. “Urgent lessons must be learnt from the challenges magnified by the likes of the Zika and Ebola epidemics, the exploding problems of obesity, and the health implications of climate change.

“While managing these new challenges, routine health systems also need to become much more accountable and responsive to people’s needs,” she added.

Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, the Dominican-born Director of the group, which is cosponsoring the symposium, said “from the Zika epidemic to natural disasters and climate change, we in the Americas have seen time and again the consequences that fragile health systems can have for local, national, and international health.

“We cannot have health security without resilient health systems, and investing in them must be a national, regional and global priority,” she said.

Karina Gould, Parliamentary Secretary, Global Affairs Canada, said, “Canada is committed to working with its partners to strengthen health systems, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable, including women, adolescents and children.

“Reducing inequalities in access to health services and resources is an important component of health system strengthening than can reduce the burden of outbreaks and health emergencies,” she said.

Etienne will be among the symposium’s keynote speakers, and will address participants on “Resilient and Responsive Health Systems: Learning from frontline experiences” on Wednesday.

Other keynote speakers from around the world will share lessons and promote action on strengthening health systems, reps of the group said.

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