Washington D.C, 2 October 2019 (PAHO/WHO) – Ministers and high-level health authorities from the Americas, participating in the third day of the 57th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), agreed on a plan to increase organ donations and transplants in an effort to meet demand.

While over 53,000 transplants were carried out in the Americas, a 6.8% increase compared to 2015, this still does not meet current needs.

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In 2016, more than 182,000 people were on waiting lists for kidney transplants, and less than 10% of demand for liver transplants is currently met in the Region.

As part of the agreed strategy, countries will seek to increase the availability of organs, tissues, and cells by promoting unpaid voluntary donation. They will also strengthen their health authorities in efforts to expand equitable access to quality transplants, while improving their legislation and oversight capacity in order to prevent illegal organ trafficking and “transplant tourism”.

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Countries commit to promote good health for all

During the third day of the 57th Directing Council, Ministers also approved the Strategy and Plan of Action on Health Promotion, which calls for the implementation of measures to promote health and well-being that go beyond a focus on individual behavior toward a wide range of social and environmental interventions.

“The conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age have a huge impact on the health and well-being of communities. This is why it is so vital that health promotion approaches are implemented so that we can tackle health issues at their root cause,” said Gerry Eijkemans, Chief of the Health Promotion and Social Determinants unit at PAHO.

Happy boys

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Better health data will improve health policy in the Americas

Countries have also committed to the Plan of Action for Strengthening Information Systems for Health 2019-2023, which highlights the need to disaggregate data by income, sex, age, race, ethnic origin, disability, geographical context and other relevant factors.

Health systems

The countries of the Americas face a multitude of challenges when it comes to strengthening information systems for health, adoption of new technologies and producing the reliable, secure and timely data needed to develop health policy that responds to specific needs. However, if countries are to effectively implement the measures needed to achieve SDG 3, access to reliable and open data, in the right place, in the right format, and at a low cost will be key.

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Strategic plan

Yesterday, countries also approved the organization’s new 2020-2025 strategic plan, which sets out action to reduce the causes of death and illness in the Americas while addressing persisting inequalities.

The strategic plan notes that “sustained economic development in the Region, with improvements in public sanitation, housing, nutrition, and health care, has driven significant advances in health outcomes” in the Americas, but significant inequities in health persist, with worse health outcomes for populations living in conditions of vulnerability.

The new plan sets goals and action for reducing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), improving country preparedness for disease outbreaks and health emergencies, and sets forth a more integrated approach to technical cooperation.

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Migration and the impact on health systems in the Americas

A side event of the 57th Directing Council, “Health of Migrants” highlighted the challenges and opportunities of major migration movements in the Region.

“We need a regional approach to solve issues of migration, with a coordinated regional response,” said PAHO Director, Carissa F. Etienne.

Recent migration from Central American countries through Mexico into the US, and from Venezuela to its neighboring South America, Central American, and Caribbean countries, have presented challenges to health systems of countries receiving migrants.


For PAHO’s Director of Health Emergencies, Ciro Ugarte, migration is not only a challenge for countries in the Americas, but also presents them with great opportunities. “The benefit that migrants bring is proportional to the generosity of the countries that receive them,” he said.

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57th PAHO Directing Council

Health authorities from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean are meeting in Washington D.C. this week to seek agreement on strategies and plans for tackling common health challenges. These include a plan to reduce heart disease by eliminating industrially produced trans-fatty acids, a strategy to make access to organ, tissue and cell transplants more equitable, and a place to improve the quality of care in health services, among other issues.