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PAHO chief reflects on momentous decade of defending universal health

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PAHO chief reflects on momentous decade of defending universal health

Washington, Sep 26 (Prensa Latina) At the opening of the 30th Pan American Sanitary Conference on Monday, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Dr. Carissa F. Etienne acknowledged significant gains in health in the last decade but urged countries to address current challenges, including immunization gaps that have rolled back nearly three decades of progress on childhood vaccinations in recent years.

Among problems affecting health sector and, consequently, the medical aid to peoples, Dr. Etienne pointed to the segmentation and underinvestment in health system, which, among other factors, have led to an “acute shortage of health workers in the Americas,” she said.

Earlier, Dr. Etienne stated that without a competitive and equitably distributed workforce it would be impossible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and especially those goals linked to “achieving our collective vision of universal health,” she said.

Plus, she added that to achieve these goals, the Americas really need 600,000 to 2 million additional health workers and services capable of providing healthcare and in the specific conditions of the communities, especially in far-flung areas.

It is also necessary, she said, to favor the improvement of working conditions and professional development, together with greater interaction between health and education.

Dr. Etienne recalled that during the last two and a half years health workers were the basis of the responses to the Covid-19 pandemic through the social and health sectors, accounting for “a cost for our health forces and relatives,” she said, referring to figures that recognize that at least 13% of workforce was infested by Covid-19, others indicated that mortality rates among them was 2%.

Lack of equipment, tests, controls and other factors that contributed to these results, in addition to what she called “the hidden cost of the pandemic on the workers”, in terms of fatigue, exhaustion, stress, harassment, physical and social violence “against those who worked tirelessly to fight off the disease”.

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