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Washington, D.C., 25 September 2014 (PAHO/WHO). - The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa F. Etienne, briefed ambassadors and representatives to the Organization of American States (OAS) on the main agenda items for the 53rd PAHO Directing Council, which meets on 29 September to 3 October in Washington, D.C.

Highlights of the five-day meeting will include a final report on the results of the PAHO Strategic Plan 2008-2013 as well as the Director's financial report. "This information will enable us to view the performance of PAHO, which is an example of transparency and accountability, something we appreciate and request from international organizations," said Sonia Merlyn Johnny, ambassador of Saint Lucia and President of the OAS Permanent Council.

PAHO Member States will also consider strategies and action plans intended to guide PAHO's technical cooperation programs, including a strategy on universal access to health and universal coverage. Etienne said the goal of the strategy is to ensure that all people and communities have access to the health services they need without exposure to financial hardship.

Other strategies and plans are focused on universal access to safe blood through voluntary altruistic donations; improvements in standards, policies, and programs for individuals with disabilities; prevention and care of mental health disorders; obesity prevention in children and adolescents; promoting health in all policies; prevention of avoidable blindness and visual impairment; and coordination of humanitarian assistance in emergencies and disasters.

Etienne also reported that, parallel to the meeting, a number of activities will take place, including a roundtable on the post-2015 development agenda and a panel discussion about violence against women. She will also present the 2014 Annual Report of the Director, which highlights innovations in the Organization's technical cooperation.

Etienne added that PAHO's work has contributed to important achievements in health, including reductions in malaria, tuberculosis and infant mortality; elimination of human rabies and Chagas disease in 17 countries, elimination of leprosy in 18 countries, and the expansion of antiretroviral treatment for people with HIV/AIDS.

The Directing Council, one of PAHO's governing bodies, sets the Organization's policies and priorities for technical cooperation, discusses regional public health challenges, and establishes strategies and action plans to improve population health and prevent diseases and death. It also provides a forum for the exchange of information and ideas.

PAHO is the specialized agency of the Inter-American system; other members include the OAS, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).