A group of experts on health promotion, health in all policies (HiAP), determinants of health, and urban health met at PAHO the first week of November to discuss synergy among the topics and give input on the Health Promotion Strategy and Plan of Action that will be presented at the next Directing Council.

The strategy calls for a movement to renew health promotion in the Region, while also creating an opportunity to better align across various related agendas, such as universal health and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

As the meeting opened, PAHO Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa noted the need for the Region to have a cohesive strategy that integrates health and other sectors.

“People´s health isn´t dependent on health services alone,” Barbosa said in his opening remarks. “Social, environmental, cultural, and economic determinants all have an incredible influence on health, but most of the time the health sector in our countries doesn´t play a big part in programs to combat poverty or improve living conditions. This demonstrates the need for a strategy that helps give the health sector a leading role.”

The perfect time to move forward

The expert meeting was held following a series of national consultations around the Region, in which best practices in health promotion at the national and local levels were identified. It was held just one week following the Declaration of Astana, which more than 120 countries signed as a recommitment to strengthen primary health care as a key part of ensuring universal health.

“The 2030 Agenda strongly emphasizes the potential of multi-sectoral action to improve health and the Regional Strategy for Universal Health places key importance on addressing social determinants of health and intersectoral action,” said FPL director Andres de Francisco during the opening of the meeting. "We have to build on previous successes to maintain momentum and work toward universal health."

However, the strategic line of the universal health strategy that focuses on strengthening intersectoral action to address the social determinants of health can be overlooked because it´s easy to leave behind for being so complex, noted Gerry Eijkemans, unit chief of the Health Promotion and Social Determinants of Health Unit in FPL. “Aligning synergies, efforts and plans will absolutely help our Region in achieving universal health,” she noted.

The meeting, which took place Nov. 1-2, brought together experts from Emory University, FLACSO Chile, FIOCRUZ, the University of Toronto, CONASED, and Ministries of Health, as well as from around PAHO. The experts will continue to collaborate for the implementation of the strategy and plan of action once it´s approved.

“The Americas is among the most advanced regions in terms of applying HiAP approaches,” said Eijkemans. “We´re at a key moment now and need to take advantage of that.”