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PAHO annual report focuses on closing health gaps in least protected populations

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Washington, D.C., September 26, 2006 (PAHO)-"The search for equity in health is one of the main objectives that guide" the Pan American Health Organization actions in the Americas, PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses said today, presenting her annual report to the organization's 47th Directing Council, an annual summit of health ministers who meet to discuss crucial public health issues. The report focuses on closing the gaps in health in the least protected populations in the Americas.

The region of the Americas "continues to show inequities" in resource allocation and the design and implementation of health policies, as shown by unequal access to services, disparities between rural and urban areas, in areas where poverty is highly concentrated, the situations of disadvantaged groups such as women, children, indigenous populations, young people, and the elderly, and populations exposed to greater risks, with a greater incidence of disease or higher levels of social exclusion, the Director's report noted.

The report notes advances in policy making and strengthening operating capacity, and outlines examples of progress in reaching disadvantaged groups such as pregnant mothers and newborns, in strengthening primary care and broadening access to health and nutrition, and in protecting the health of children and adolescents and preventing youth violence. Other initiatives noted are strengthening gender equality, reducing stigma and discrimination against people affected by HIV/AIDS, protecting the disabled, improving health care for the elderly, and advancing programs to protect against and mitigate the impact of disasters. Strategies to help persons living in poverty in a number of countries are detailed, along with projects to improve health in border communities.

Dr. Roses also described PAHO's strategic malaria control plan for the next four years, including community participation projects in Mexico and Central America, the "focalized treatment" strategy now being used, and research and surveillance of resistance to anti-malarial drugs in the Amazon region. Similarly, she outlined a new regional plan to control Tuberculosis using the DOTS strategy and strengthening collaboration between TB and HIV control activities.

"Vaccination strategies for elimination of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in the Americas have progressed rapidly," the report noted, adding that by "June 2006, 84% of the countries and territories of the Americas had implemented vaccination plans, and large cohorts of adults had been protected. The English-speaking Caribbean countries, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Paraguay have completed massive vaccination campaigns for adult men and women, while Chile and Brazil vaccinated only women of childbearing age, reaching more than 95% coverage during the campaigns. The remaining countries will carry out campaigns during the second semester of 2006 and the first semester of 2007."

The report also noted that "Hospital surveillance of rotavirus has been put in place in 10 countries, and an internal alliance has been created within PAHO to accelerate and facilitate the introduction of vaccines against human papillomavirus, which has been linked to cervical cancer."

The agenda and all the documents for the Directing Council can be found on this page. http://www.paho.org/English/DD/PIN/pr060926.htm

PAHO, established in 1902, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and living standards of their peoples. It is also the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization.