Media Center

Press Release


  October 11, 2005

Human development as one of the legitimate aspirations of the Americas will not be achieved when there are such marked health disparities and gross inequalities between countries and within countries. That assertion came from the former Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Sir George Alleyne, as he headlined the monthly Organization of American States (OAS) Lecture Series of the Americas today, in making the case for much more priority to be given to health issues.

“Health is instrumental in its own right in contributing to wealth and other aspects of human development,” the Barbadian-born Dr. Alleyne — head of PAHO from 1995 to 2003 and currently Chancellor of the University of the West Indies — argued in his keynote lecture on “health for development” that was broadcast live from OAS headquarters this afternoon. He stressed that “health is as much a driver as a consequence of economic growth and people freedoms,” and explained that poverty is a major factor in the huge differences in infant- and maternal mortality rates between the poorer and the more prosperous countries.

Sir George cited recent studies and statistics showing that “the health status of countries is reflected in their economic performance.” He further noted research on Guatemala concluding that “the nutritional intake of young children correlates with earning capacities when they reach adulthood,” and pointed to a report of the Commission on Macro-Economics that produced evidence of starting infant mortality rates in countries being inversely proportional to those countries’ future economic growth.

In the presentation, Dr. Alleyne also underscored important ways in which health affects such key issues as democracy, security and the environment, arguing that “the health inequities that are often seen within a country are major causes of social unrest and can threaten internal security.” Noting the common concern among inter-American institutions regarding human development, Dr. Alleyne spoke about the important role of the OAS and others in a “coordinated approach to ensuring that the problems in various areas are tackled together.”

OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza opened the conference, with the OAS Permanent Council’s Chairman, Ambassador Izben Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis, introducing the keynote speaker. OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert R. Ramdin and San Martin de Porres University’s Dean Raul Bao also participated. A spirited discussion ensued after the main presentation, with Sir George taking questions from the audience.

Immediately following this, a panel of experts discussed major issues raised in relation to the conference theme. Participating on that panel were Carissa F. Etienne, Assistant Director of PAHO; Dean T. Jamison, Professor of Education and of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles; and Alfredo Solari, Senior Health Advisor at the Social Development Division, Inter-American Development Bank. Irene Klinger, Director of the OAS Department of Communications and External Relations moderated the panel discussion.

The Lecture Series of the Americas was created by the OAS Permanent Council, on a Peruvian government initiative, to promote democratic principles and values in the countries of the hemisphere. The monthly conferences feature internationally known speakers who address key issues of the hemispheric agenda, such as the strengthening of democracy, human rights, social development, hemispheric security and the fight against poverty. The 12 conferences scheduled for 2005 are being held thanks to a financial contribution from Peru’s San Martín de Porres University and support from the government of the People’s Republic of China and the Hellenic Republic.
Former US President Jimmy Carter, IDB President Enrique Iglesias, International Criminal Court President Phillipe Kirsh, Nobel Laureate for Literature Derek Walcott of Saint Lucia, former US Assistant Secretary of the Treasury John B. Taylor, the President of the Inter-American Press Association, Alejandro Miró Quesada, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and former Prime Minister of Spain Felipe González have been keynote speakers for the previous lectures.

Reference: E-233/05