A Public Health Approach to Drugs in Latin America

"Access to health care is a crucial aspect of social inclusion"

Source: Press release by the Organization of American States

Following the inauguration of the 53rd Directing Council of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), to which the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, took part, the joint work of both institutions to address expressions of the worldwide drug problem was highlighted. "This common effort has led to, naturally, the consideration of the drug use problem as a public health problem rather than a security problem" said Secretary General Insulza.

Both organizations are committed to promote close collaboration  to develop sub-regional initiatives and to establish priority areas for joint action by countries to develop public health policies on drugs. These efforts are also helping to promote a higher quality of care for addicts and consumers at risk.

"The public health approach wound up being adopted by consensus by our countries in the recent OAS Special General Assembly, held on September 19 in Guatemala" declared Insulza. In another part of his address, the OAS Secretary General noted that in the Seventh Summit of the Americas, to be held in Panama in April 2015, the issue of development cooperation will play a central role.

"The great theme of social inclusion has become the focus of the hemispheric agenda in recent years, to the extent that our nations have come to recognize that the full democratic development of the Hemisphere is not possible if the levels of inequality, discrimination and exclusion remain, and continue to affect large groups of citizens of our region," he said. In this regard, he added that "access to health care is a crucial aspect of social inclusion," and will be part of the agenda of the Summit.

For her part, the Director of PAHO, Carissa Etienne, stressed in her speech that the Hemisphere is on the path to eliminating the transmission of HIV from mother to child, as well as congenital syphilis. "Over 75 percent of people living with HIV in the region have access to antiretrovirals", said Director Etienne, and recalled that the Americas are the first region in the world to eliminate "poliomyelitis, smallpox, measles and congenital rubella syndrome.

Director Etienne said significant achievements have been made in controlling the consumption of tobacco, and said that one of the main objectives of the agenda of PAHO is to achieve universal health coverage. She also mentioned infant mortality and childhood obesity as other important challenges the regions is facing.


The PAHO Directing Council gathers the health authorities of the 39 Member States of Latin America and two observer states, Spain and Portugal. In additions to establishing mandates for programs of technical cooperation of PAHO, the meeting also provides a forum for technical and government representatives to exchange information and ideas on health in the region. Its last meeting was held September 29, 2014