Investment, Innovation and Implementation, Pillars for Effective Primary Care in the 21st Century: PAHO Director – PAHO/WHO

WASHINGTON DC July 20, 2023 (PAHO/WHO) – If the Americas region is to reverse the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, countries must urgently develop and implement primary health systems that address the ever-changing epidemiological context and population needs of the 21st century, Director of the Barbo American Health Organization (PAHO) said today.

„We are facing one of the most devastating global public health events of the last century. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on global health and socioeconomic development, causing the greatest loss of life in the American region,” he said during his speech at the International Conference on Primary Care in Washington, DC.

„I couldn’t find a more perfect time to take joint action on this issue,” he added.

Dr. Dr. Barbosa highlighted during his speech, decades of low priority in health policies, inadequate resource allocation in communities, and hospital-centered models of care. All of this „contributed to the concentration of health services from communities and individuals most in need.”

„Our health systems were not prepared for the pandemic,” said Dr Barbosa.

The director of PAHO emphasized that primary health care is critical to recover from epidemics, prepare for future health emergencies, reverse trends in maternal and infant mortality rates, increase vaccination coverage, and accelerate the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria.

Likewise, he emphasized the importance of prioritizing a „localized approach” to primary health care, developing care models adapted to local health conditions and the local environment to reach the most vulnerable populations and address health gaps.

Health does not begin in hospitals or clinics,” added Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), „but in homes, schools, streets and workplaces.” „Strong primary health care plays an essential and dual role.

„We must continue to exchange experiences and learn from good practices in primary health care both globally and regionally,” said Dr Barbosa. „Our world is more interconnected today than ever before. The spread of COVID-19 and the existential threat of climate change show that health emergencies and disasters know no borders,” he noted.

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To accelerate this action, the PAHO director urged decision makers to „invest, innovate and execute.”

Countries should invest at least 6% of GDP in health as recommended by resource allocation approach in primary care and ensure that funds reach the people in need, Dr. Barbosa insisted.

He also urged countries to find „innovative ways to guarantee the right to health for all”, not only through technology and digital health, but also by rethinking care models, innovations in governance and cross-collaboration with multilateral and bilateral partners.

Finally, he emphasized the need for decisive action. „The time has come to move beyond political statements and aspirations and move from theory to practice,” he said.

Together we can build resilient health systems that protect, promote and guarantee the right to health. Through investment, innovation and implementation we can learn from history, overcome past challenges, accelerate health gains and create a more prosperous future for all.”

The International Conference on Primary Care, taking place at the US National Academy of Sciences from July 19-20, brings together leading high-level health experts from governments, civil society and academia to discuss the critical role of primary care in health protection and health assurance.

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