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Secretary General Insulza: "Health is an Essential Condition for Social Inclusion"

  September 17, 2012

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, said that “poverty and inequality remain major challenges in the Americas and are accompanied by health problems,” in his words during the inauguration of the 28th Pan American Sanitary Conference of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which meets from September 17 to 21 in Washington, DC.

Secretary General Insulza recalled that the Social Charter of the Americas states that “health is an essential condition for inclusion and social cohesion, integral development, and economic growth with equity.” He emphasized that the Social Charter of the Americas, adopted at the OAS General Assembly in Cochabamba in June, is “one of the most important, complete and comprehensive social documents in the hemisphere,” because it addresses “social determinants as key conditioning factors in health.”

Secretary General Insulza said that “the OAS and PAHO work hand in hand to achieve social and economic development with equity, taking into account the important perspective of the social determinants of health as a central element of this strategy.” He highlighted the Consumer Safety and Health Network that the organizations implement together, which aims to “ensure that the goods and services circulating in the market do not endanger the health and lives of the citizens of the hemisphere.”

Insulza also mentioned the importance of the “Inter-American Social Protection Network that, through the OAS,” and “in collaboration with several international organizations such as PAHO, promotes the exchange and transfer of experience and knowledge, incorporating the focus of the health sector into social protection in the Americas.”

Recalling that the OPS this year “celebrates its 110th year,” the chief representative of the OAS said the health organization “has had to adapt and adjust” to reality as the years pass, and as an example, recalled “the commission that the presidents have given to the OAS at the last Summit of the Americas, to prepare a technical report on current drug policies and new approaches, which leads us to count on the support of PAHO because a problem of this magnitude can not addressed without public health standards set by professionals able to provide them.” “It couldn’t be, nor should it be otherwise, as the drug problem has become a public health problem,” he added.

PAHO Director Mirta Roses, who will soon retire after ten years in office, said the eradication and elimination of diseases has been a hallmark of the Pan American progress in the field of public health. However, Roses noted that “the persistent social exclusion, inequality and disparities of gender geography and ethnicity have detrimental effects on the development of children and adolescents, and are one of the biggest challenges in the region.”

For her part, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan, said that the organization she leads and its member states face two major tasks: one is the reform of the WHO and other is putting health on the development agenda for 2015. “Universal health coverage is the most powerful social equalizer,” said Chan.

The Assistant Secretary for Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Howard Koh, said there is a need for “more efforts to form the basic skills necessary to protect not only the Western Hemisphere, but the world community against threats to public health.”

The last speaker of the inaugural session was the Undersecretary of Assistance Networks of Chile's Ministry of Health, and outgoing president of the Pan American Sanitary Conference, Luis Castillo, who indicated that he believed a multisectoral approach was necessary to address “health challenges in the next decade, in particular, to address chronic non-communicable diseases.”

During the 28th Conference of PAHO, the next Director of the Pan American Sanitary Bureau will be elected for a period of five years. In addition, the organization’s report on Health in the Americas 2012 will be presented.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The video of the event will be available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-315/12