PAN AMERICAN SANITARY CONFERENCE 2017: The participation of the countries of UNASUR

29/09/2017 - ISAGS

From September 25 to 29, the UNASUR countries participated in the 29th Pan American Sanitary Conference, organized by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) at its headquarters in Washington, USA.

ISAGS was present every day and recorded the main resolutions, meetings, speeches and all details of the participation of the countries of South America. Read our summary by days and click here to see our coverage videos.


Last day of the 29th Pan American Sanitary Conference: there were five days of intense debates among the countries on relevant topics to the entire region of the Americas, with great participation and protagonism of the countries of UNASUR.

Minister of Health of Argentina, Jorge Lemús

The day began with the evaluation of reports on technical issues, where countries spoke among others about the Disability and Rehabilitation Plan and the coordination of humanitarian assistance.

During the disability debate, Argentina reinforced that the training of human resources and the promotion of technical cooperation in this area are essential. Brazil, which was the epicenter of the Public Health Emergency of International Importance concerning the relationship of the Zika virus and neurological disorders in children, such as microcephaly, proposed the creation of “a network of children with deficiency as a result of infection by the Zika so that we can verify the degree of deficiency caused to subsidize studies and also the support of the network itself”, said Antonio Nardi, Executive Secretary of the Brazilian Minister of Health.

The natural disasters through which the Caribbean and Mexico region mainly occurred were mentioned numerous times throughout the Conference, with particular emphasis on the item on humanitarian assistance. Several countries reinforced their solidarity with the affected countries and the plan, the rapporteur of the theme, Ciro Ugarte, added that the region already had capacity to respond and be resilient even before its approval: “the plan approved in the Directing Council is based on existing actions in the region and on the capacity of countries to coordinate humanitarian assistance”.

Ecuador and Peru underscored the initiatives already underway at UNASUR, as a regional strategic alliance. “It is important to emphasize the experience of the UNASUR Member States which, in March of this year, approved a declaration on the recognition of minimum standards for emergency teams at the Health Council Ministers’ Summit”, said Peter Skerrett, National Director of Cooperation and International Relations of the Ministry of Health of Ecuador.

There was also a report on the implementation of the Framework for Collaboration with Non-State Actors (FENSA), which assessed the fact that the Americas was the first region to implement the Framework.

Finally, at the close of this week’s intense debates, the Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Carissa Etienne, thanked the member countries, other delegates present and the PAHO/WHO team, reinforced the need for cooperation for the achievement of Agenda 2030 and the recently adopted Sustainable Health Agenda of the Americas: “I am sure that together and with solidarity we can achieve these great objectives”.

Under the leadership of the President of the Conference, Paraguay’s Minister of Health, Antonio Barrios, was revised to 53 agenda items, 43 documents and negotiated and approved 16 resolutions. The next edition of the meeting will be held in 2022, when a new direction for the Organization will be chosen and its strategic agenda updated for the next five years.


The Report on the implementation of the International Health Regulations continued on the agenda of the fourth day of the 29th Pan American Sanitary Conference. According to the rapporteur, Ciro Ugarte, the region of the Americas is the one that most reports events in the world: “Half the events worldwide are from our region”, he said. He also referred to the consultation process on the regulation, which is unique in the world, emphasizing this as a fundamental step for a process of participatory and transparent construction.

Fourth day of the Panamerican Sanitary Conference 2017

The next item discussed by the countries was the final report on the Impact of Violence on the Health of the Populations of the Americas. Countries called attention to gender-based violence, children, adolescents and older adults. “There are innumerable forms of violence. In that sense, special attention should be given to violence against vulnerable populations”, said Jaime Matute, delegate of Colombia, whose situation in the armed conflict has demanded special attention from the health sector.

The Network of National Cancer Institutes of UNASUR (RINC/UNASUR) was mentioned in the section on the Final Report of the Regional Strategy and Plan of Action for the prevention and control of cervical cancer. Brazil noted the importance of the plan that  RINC is developing at the level of South America: “We are developing our regional plan for the control of cervical cancer of our Network of Cancer Institutes of UNASUR, completed in May, which will be submitted for approval of the South American Health Council, to be held by the Pro Tempore Presidency of Argentina”, emphasized the Executive Secretary of the country’s Ministry of Health, Antonio Nardi.

Bolivia added that “through the RINC, with the support of ISAGS and the Fund of Common Initiatives of UNASUR, it is planned to create a platform for the exchange of technical assistance that contemplates the strategies proposed in the document presented”, said the Deputy Minister of Health, Alvaro Terrazas.

Discussions were also held on technical reporting items on topics such as Human Rights, Health in All Policies, access to health services by LGBT populations and immunizations.

Finally, the resolution on the Status and Challenges of the Inactivated Polio Vaccine was approved, and the discussions were intensively attended by countries such as Uruguay and Ecuador. At the end of her speech, the Minister of Health of Ecuador, Verónica Espinoza emphasized that the country will be vigilant to “safeguard the interests of public health over commercial interests”.

Tomorrow is the last day of the Conference and countries will continue discussions on technical issues such as epilepsy, disabilities, humanitarian assistance and cooperation for health development. In addition, the implementation of the framework for collaboration with non-state actors, approved in 2016 at the World Health Assembly, will be discussed.



 36 of 36 votes for Carissa Etienne. This was the result of the electoral process for the Pan American Sanitary Bureau, which took place on the morning of September 27 at the headquarters of the Pan American Health Organization in Washington. The election takes place every five years during the Pan American Sanitary Conference and in this 29th edition, endorsed the second five-year term of Etienne. In her speech, she reinforced the need to work cross-sectorally to achieve even more results and thanked the Organization’s staff. “I promise to do my best to continue responding to that global call. On the other hand, I cannot fail to recognize that this election is, in fact, a testimony to the hard work of the PAHO team”, she said.

In common agreement, countries also adopted the resolution on the Sustainability Action Plan for the elimination of measles, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in the Americas 2018-2030. The region managed to eradicate both diseases respectively in 2015 and 2016 and the mantainence is their biggest challenge. Brazil, acknowledged the progress made with these achievements and added: “We advocate that strategies for vaccine coverage and timely detection be maintained and strengthened in all member countries”, said the Minister of Health, Ricardo Barros.

Tobacco control was the subject of another resolution adopted by the Conference. South America has been highlighting the theme with a special role for Uruguay, which even established a specific international cooperation center. The fight against tobacco industry interference in anti-smoking policies and the illicit tobacco trade were two quite frequent issues in the interventions of the countries. “This creates catastrophic consequences for the health of populations. The epidemic of noncommunicable diseases has its greatest cause in tobacco use”, said Jorge Basso, Minister of Health of Uruguay.

The fourth day of the Conference will begin with the continuation of the debate on the international health regulations, in addition to the topic of violence and prevention and control of cervical cancer, among others.



In addition to discussing more administrative issues such as the PAHO Strategic Plan and Member States’ contributions, the Conference approved today (26) two important resolutions for our region, in addition to updating the report on Health in the Americas.

The respect and inclusion of the original populations, afro-descendants and romaníes in health policies and also the recognition of ethnicity as a social determinant of health were central points of the resolution on the Politics on ethnicity and health. The countries welcomed the document, noting their importance, not without mentioning challenges still to be overcome. “We consider it important to continue advancing the generation of evidence on ethnicity in statistical records of health systems” [to create solutions relevant to these populations], said Rocío Casildo, delegate of Peru.

The Human Resources Strategy for universal access and universal health coverage was the other resolution adopted and also with central relevance to South America. In the debate, the countries focused on the issue of professional migration, the feminization of health work and the need to adapt training policies with a gender approach to equity, noting the intersectoral nature of this strategy.

THE REPORT: Every five years, the PAHO leadership presents a Report with a compilation of health data from all the countries of the Americas, launched today at the Conference. With the innovation of being also available through a virtual platform to be updated more frequently, the Report indicates important achievements in the region as the increase of the life expectancy for 75 years. Carissa Etienne, Director of the Organization, acknowledged the achievement, but noted the inequity that plagues our countries. “We must take urgent measures to combat inequities and that all people in the Americas have access to the health services they need and conditions that determine good health, such as access to safe drinking water, education and decent housing”, she claimed.

Ecuador was highlighted with the recognition of the emergency medical team of the country’s Ministry of Health, being the only country in South America to receive verification from the World Health Organization (WHO), as part of its Emergency Medical Teams initiative (EMT). In addition to that, a parallel event was held to the Conference to provide the launch of the Sustainable Health Agenda 2018-2030 (ASA), under the leadership of the country. “We accept the fact that error is part of success. The biggest mistake that can change the world and not do. The ASA does not have our duty to directly influence the future. […] Many may want to change the world. We can”, concluded the Minister of Health, Veronica Espinoza.

The third day of the meeting will be marked by the election of the Director of PAHO/WHO.



Following what began on Sunday (24) at the meeting of the UNASUR Health Council, when it was approved, among other declarations, the creation of a regional observatory for the health impacts on climate change, the first day of the 29th Pan American Sanitary Conference (25) had this as one of its central axes, because of the last disasters why the region passed with floods and hurricanes.

During his speeches, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Ghebreyesus, drew attention to the need for political will for a paradigm shift; while the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), Carissa Etinne, noted important achievements such as the elimination of communicable diseases like measles – one of the six vaccine-preventable diseases eradicated in the Americas – and the vertical transmission of HIV by Cuba.

Paraguay and Guyana were elected respectively as President and Vice-President of the Conference, leading the work and discussions held by the countries. In turn, Uruguay was part of the Credentials Committee.

The Sustainable Health Agenda for the Americas 2018-2030, after Ecuador led the negotiation process, which was discussed by the Working Group discussed, was approved by countries as a framework document of the region for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

At the end of the day, the OPS Award for Management and Leadership of Health Services (2017) was hosted by Estela Bolaños from Costa Rica.

Today (26), countries begin the day by discussing the Action Plan for Strengthening Vital Statistics and will also discuss the Ethnicity and Health Policy, the Human Resources Strategy and the Tobacco Control Strategy.


The Health Council of UNASUR met to discuss issues of extreme importance for the region. Five declarations on human resources in health, nutrition and labeling were approved, the creation of a regional observatory on the impacts of climate change on health, the South American Plan for Disaster Risk and the recognition by the work of Dr. Carissa Etienne as director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).