Latin America and the Caribbean are of the most diverse regions in the world. It is also where one of the largest disparities in terms of socio-economic classes exist. PAHO recognizes the need to address ethnic, social and cultural diversities that exist within Member States and technical units to create policies and services accessible to all populations.
There is ample evidence attesting to the disadvantage and discrimination that many of the men and especially women of these populations experience regarding their socio-economic welfare, exclusion, and their health, and access and contribution to care. Health information systems also often fail to recognize the differences and needs of these groups, which hinders defining better interventions and indicators for monitoring acceptance and effectiveness in improving the health of all populations.
The formulation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of public policies should ensure the participation of the populations involved, respect for human rights, an intercultural approach, and gender equality.
An intercultural approach promotes the equitable interaction between groups with different cultural identities; perceives health as a right, and implies the capacity of health workers to integrate different knowledge, beliefs, and cultural practices in addressing health and disease, to life and death. Health policies, programs, and plans are transformative when they address ethnic inequity gaps and actively involve affected populations in addressing these gaps. When these recognize and include traditional practices — such as traditional medicine — they are ethnic specific. When cultural differences and the participants are not taken into account, they are culturally insensitive.
The Policy on Ethnicity and Health makes the Region of the Americas the first World Health Organization Region to acknowledge the importance of adopting an intercultural approach to address inequities in health.