In its end-of-year report, PAHO said the region’s countries advanced toward goals, including universal health coverage, expanded access to vaccination, and ensuring that fewer babies are born with HIV.
PAHO said the region also confronted major new challenges, including the arrival and spread of the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) and the need to prepare for the possible imported cases of Ebola.
In highlighting major public health achievements and challenges on which it collaborated with member countries, PAHO said some 30 per cent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean lacks access to health-care for economic reasons.
In September, regional health authorities gathered at PAHO headquarters here and agreed on a strategy to advance the goal of universal access to health and universal health coverage.
“We have agreed on a road map to progressively ensure all people have access to the health services they need, when they need them, without fear of financial hardship,” said PAHO’s director, Dr Carissa Etienne.
A special series from the medical journal The Lancet, published in October, highlighted progress in the Americas toward the goal of universal coverage.
PAHO noted the mosquito-borne CHIKV, imported from Africa, produced its first locally-transmitted case in the Americas in December 2013, and infected more than one million people throughout the Americas this year.
PAHO said it has helped member countries cope with the disease through support for surveillance, detecting and managing cases, and preparing and organising health services, while also encouraging the elimination of mosquito breeding sites to help reduce transmission.
In August the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared West Africa’s Ebola outbreak a “public health event of international concern”.
Since then, PAHO said it has been working with member countries in the Americas to ensure they are able to respond rapidly and prevent the spread of any importation of the disease.
“Preventing local transmission is the main goal,” said Marcos Espinal, director of PAHO’s Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis.
Dengue is another major public health concern for the region, with PAHO noting the case fatality rate in the Americas declined more than 28 per cent in the last three years.
A major contributing factor was better clinical management of patients following the dissemination of new guidelines in 2010, PAHO said.
The health agency estimates that while some 1,500 dengue deaths were prevented last year as a result of better care, the number of cases increased fivefold in the Americas between 2003 and 2013. —CMC