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Washington, D.C., March 30th, 2015 (PAHO/WHO)A panel of experts from around the world will discuss the instruments and mechanisms that the countries of the Americas can use to ensure that all public policies——not just health sector policies—— consider the potential impact on people's well-being. The meeting will be held at the headquarters of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in Washington, D.C. on March 31-April 1.

The experts invited by PAHO will discuss a roadmap to provide the countries of the Americas with the tools they need to implement an action plan to include health in all public policies. In the action plan approved last year, the countries of the Americas committed to promoting a public policy approach that systematically considers the potential health implications of each decision, seeking synergies to protect and promote health, as well as addressing the social and environmental conditions that hinder the achievement of the highest standard of health for all people.

"Reducing health inequities should be a central part of the development of any policy. This means refocusing health services to ensure universal access to health and universal health coverage. But it is equally important to strengthen the health sector's role in forging partnerships with other sectors to implement policies and actions that involve the entire government," said Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, Director of PAHO/WHO.

Over the past three decades, life expectancy at birth has increased from 69.2 (1980) to 76.1 (2011) in the Americas. Child malnutrition has fallen to less than 10% since 2005 and infant mortality dropped by 50% between 1990 and 2009. Despite registered improvements in health, these have not been achieved equitably either among or within countries. Health inequities are related to ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation, income level, where people live, and employment and working conditions, among other factors.

"I am confident that as we advance in including health in all policies, our work will reaffirm the innovative and dynamic ability of the Americas to develop people-centered policies that advance toward health, equity, and social justice," Etienne added.

The action plan to include health in all policies, approved during the 53rd Directing Council of PAHO in October 2014, requires countries to work on the social and environmental determinants of health. These determinants often need to be addressed by policies and actions outside the health sector, for example in employment, education, transportation, or social policies. The Region of the Americas was the first in the world to approve this kind of action plan.

The countries of the Americas have already begun to incorporate actions from different sectors for a positive impact on people's well-being, for example:

  • Strategies to combat obesity in Mexico. In addition to the health sector, these strategies involved another 15 government agencies and the President's office. As a result, reductions have been achieved in the intake of salt, sugar, and sweeteners in processed foods, as well as an increase in physical activity in schools and workplaces.
  • The national tobacco control policy in Brazil. In order to implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an intersectoral commission was created to lead legislative reforms to change market regulations and raise tobacco taxes, among other actions
  • The national Buen Vivir ("Living Well") plan in Ecuador. This calls for multicultural, inclusive, and sustainable development, seeking coordinated action between different sectors and levels of government to improve the well-being of the population.
  • The Intersectoral Health Commission in El Salvador. Functioning since 2009, this commission promotes intersectoral actions to address the social determinants of health and health inequities. It is led by the Ministry of Health, in coordination with other areas of government, civil society, and the private sector.

The meeting of experts that will discuss a roadmap to implement health in all policies is part of the commitment of PAHO/WHO to support the Member States in their efforts to implement the Health in All Policies approach. This includes developing capacities, structures, and mechanisms, and promoting the sharing of experiences among countries and organizations.

"Achieving the goal of health in all policies and highlighting the successful actions that have already been taken to include health in all policies will ensure the Region's global leadership role in advancing toward innovative approaches to policy-making," said Kira Fortune, PAHO Advisor on Social Determinants of Health. "It will also contribute to the global discussion on how to step up actions among different sectors to address the social determinants of health and reduce social inequities," she added.

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The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) works with the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of its population. Founded in 1902, it is the world's oldest international public health agency. It serves as the WHO Regional Office for the Americas and is the specialized health agency of the Inter-American system.

Media Note

What: Opening of the meeting of experts on the instruments and mechanisms that the countries of the Americas can use to ensure that all public policies consider the potential impact on people's health.

When: 31 March 2015, 9:30-11 a.m. (WDC time)

How: In person or online: www.livestream.com/opsenvivo  

Who:  

  • Michael Marmot, Director, Institute of Health Equity, University College of London, United Kingdom
  • Jeanette Vega, Director of the National Health Fund (FONASA), Chile
  • Paulo Buss, Director of the FIOCRUZ Global Health Center, Brazil
  • David McQueen, Vice President for Scientific Affairs, International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE), Australia

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Invitation to Tweetchat

What:
International experts on Health in All Policies will answer questions on Twitter, which can be sent using hashtag #SaludTP 

How:
Hashtag  #SaludTP

When:
1 April 2015, 10-11 a.m. (WDC time)

Who:  

  • Michael Marmot, Director, Institute of Health Equity, University College of London, United Kingdom
  • Jeanette Vega, Director of the National Health Fund (FONASA), Chile
  • Paulo Buss, Director of the Global Health Center of FIOCRUZ, Brazil
  • David McQueen, Vice President for Scientific Matters, International Union for Health Promotion and Education, Australia

For more information visit this link. 

Links

— PAHO: Plan of Action on Health in All Policies (CD53/10, Rev. 1)

— PAHO: Health in All Policies

— Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health (final report of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health)

— Committee on Social Determinants of Health

— https://twitter.com/opsoms #SaludTP