The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, and the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa Etienne, signed today a joint declaration pledging to join forces of both Hemispheric organizations in an effort to move toward universal health coverage in the Americas.
Secretary General Insulza noted the significance of signing an agreement of this nature with PAHO at the OAS General Assembly, whose theme is “Development with social inclusion.” He said that in the context of our Hemisphere, the lack of access to health coverage “is also linked to the social inequalities that exist in our societies.”
The OAS Secretary General said that sizeable sectors of the population throughout the Americas lack health coverage. Beyond the ideological debate, he said, all citizens must have access to quality health care.
Director Etienne said that many countries in the region are concerned about the lack of health coverage for significant sectors of the population of the Americas. “The objective of this agreement is to strengthen cooperation between both institutions in the area of social inclusion,” said the PAHO Director. She stressed the importance of this issue in the Western Hemisphere, “the area of the world with the greatest inequality.”
“Social inclusion is very important for PAHO and the World Health Organization, as we work toward achieving universal health coverage,” said Director Etienne, who added that “the member states have decided that the Americas will become the first region in the world to achieve universal health coverage.”
In 2009, in response to a mandate of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, the OAS launched the Inter-American Social Protection Network (RIPSO), whose objectives include strengthening the institutional capacity of national social development agencies in formulating and implementing effective and efficient policies and programs to eradicate extreme poverty, and facilitating greater cross-sectoral cooperation on social protection issues.
The Social Charter of the Americas, signed in the framework of the OAS, and the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO)—of which PAHO is the regional agency for the Americas—establish the basic principle that “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition."
Among the most important elements of the agreement is the intention to expand “equitable access to comprehensive, quality, people and community centered health services.” It also endeavors to strengthen inter-sector coordination and enhance the capacity of national health officials to successfully execute public policies that address the social factors of health, according to the cooperation document signed by the two organizations.
The agreement was signed at the forty-fourth regular session of the OAS General Assembly, which began today and will continue through Thursday at the headquarters of the CONMEBOL in Asunción, Paraguay.
A gallery of photos of the event will be available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.