28th Pan American Sanitary Conference: [Day 3] “A new face for the Pan American Health Organization” #

The third day of the 28th Pan American Sanitary Conference of PAHO promised very much from the start especially with the election of the new Regional Director. Besides this exciting event, it was our opportunity to put forth IFMSA’s intervention regarding the Adoption of the Plan of Action for Integrated Child Health.

The morning began with the voting process. The candidates were three women presented by Costa Rica, Ecuador and Dominica. In order to become elected as Regional Director, several requirements need to be met. One requiring being that there have to be at least 20 votes, the majority, in favor of a single candidate. During the first round of voting, this requirement was not met leading to a second round of voting. After minutes of anticipation, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne from Dominica was elected to lead PAHO and represent the Americas for the next five years.

Dr. Etienne has worked at PAHO before as the Assistant Director of the Secretariat for several years, then transitioning to the WHO as the Assistant Director General for Health Systems and Service. Her expertise and leadership make her a sound choice to coordinate PAHO and IFMSA looks forward to working more with her. Additionally, as she has extensive experience working on health systems and is originally from the Caribbean, it would be a great idea to invite her to the PAMSA RM in El Salvador where the main theme will be Health Systems in the Americas and the Caribbean.

In Dr. Etienne’s acceptance speech, she expressed that she visualizes the region as united group of diverse countries with distinctive cultures working together towards common goals, while keeping the Caribbean strong and present. She also state that while the region has improved in health matters, more hard work has to be done in the next years as we approach the post-MDGs era in a hostile financial environment where the health sector may become weaker. Thirty out of thirty-five countries from the Americas have a National Health Plan with twenty having used the Health for the Americas Agenda adopted and suggested by PAHO. Dr. Etienne highlighted this as an example of the positive influence of PAHO to help improve the help of member states in the Americas.

After the election of Dr. Etienne as the new leader for PAHO, the plenary session began with comments from delegates and others. More than fifteen member states from the region and other observer states (France and Netherlands) expressed their gratitude to Dr. Roses for her incredible leadership and coordination that has brought the region to the place it is at today, spearheading several initiatives and projects that have been adopted by the WHO and other regional offices. Member states also congratulated and exalted the work of Dr. Etienne, reaffirming their commitment to continue supporting the Regional Office and to collaborate in whatever needed from now on. Bahamas then went on to propose Dr. Mirta Roses as Director Emeritus of PAHO; with no amendments and no dissent from the Member States, Dr. Roses was awarded with such title.

The agenda of the day went on to the working documents where IFMSA had another opportunity to express its position on the Integrated Child Health Plan of Action Proposal. I had the honor to deliver such an intervention, which included food safety, family well-being, employee safety, basic education and health coverage as the main social Determinants of “integrated” child health. While the MDGs gave member states and the health community directions to a vertical approach to child and maternal health, IFMSA put forth a statement supporting a more integral approach incorporating a perspective that includes social determinants of health and human rights. As health leaders of tomorrow, we at IFMSA are committed to effective implementation of such a broad-based approach.

After the intervention, the IFMSA delegation got very positive feedback from country delegates and other PAHO officials. They said that IFMSA had clearly expressed exactly what the report lacked. Some suggestions were given to be added as amendments to the final draft.

We are very excited and happy to be representing IFMSA and the region, giving our all to do the best job possible. We definitely look forward to keeping you informed on what happens at the PSC28 of PAHO. You can also be informed by taking a look at the PSC28 PAHO Blog (http://psc28.wordpress.com/)

It would be great to hear your input or comments on our work at this pivotal conference.

Sending you my best from PAHO Headquarters in Washington D.C.,

Daniel Tobón García

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