Dr Carissa F Etienne has begun her second term as director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and regional director for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).
“In this region, most of our countries have reached the stage where many of the easy public health gains have already been achieved,” she said in her inaugural address.
“Which means that each incremental improvement in the health of our peoples requires a redoubling of our efforts, in order to reach those most vulnerable and marginalized individuals that still lack health care.”
She said that increasing overall investment in health will not be enough to meet this challenge.
“Targeted interventions that make a tangible difference in the lives of underserved populations will be the key to our success.”
Over the next five years, Etienne will work with PAHO member countries to advance toward “health for all”.
A high-level commission formed by PAHO will analyse progress toward this goal since the 1978 Alma-Ata declaration on primary health care and will examine the persisting gaps and challenges to further progress in the region toward universal coverage and universal access to health.
Etienne begins her second term on a path already set by the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the WHO General Program of Work, the PAHO Strategic Plan, and the Sustainable Agenda for the Americas, which provide an intersectoral framework for social and economic development in all countries.
Attending Etienne’s inauguration today were Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Irwin LaRocque, and US Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services Eric Hargan.
Etienne is the first Caribbean woman to lead the hemispheric health organisation and will also focus on preparing health services in the Region to withstand the effects of climate change.
“A key part to ensuring that the health sector responds adequately to natural disasters lies in the development of resilient health systems,” she said.
Her native country, Dominica, was among those countries most affected by hurricanes in the past year.