The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is encouraging member countries to earmark at least six per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for public health expenditure, with 30 per cent of such investments channelled into bolstering delivery at the primary level.
PAHO Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, said that the investment will better position countries to respond to recurring outbreaks of the coronavirus (COVID-19), which are anticipated over the next two years in the Americas.
“If we allocate resources to primary health clinics, hospitals, laboratories and grow our health workforce, invest in essential public health and expand our stockpiles and supplies, we can stay ahead of the pandemic and save lives. This will also lay the groundwork for the timely and equitable rollout of future vaccines and treatments,” Dr. Etienne said.
She was speaking during PAHO’s weekly COVID-19 digital media briefing on Wednesday (June 24).
Dr. Etienne noted that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the Americas has tripled over the last four weeks, moving from almost 690,000 to more than two million as at June 23.
She pointed out that the figure represents nearly half of the global total, which has surpassed 4.5 million with some 226,000 deaths, noting that “our region has become the new epicentre of the pandemic”.
Dr. Etienne said consequent on these developments, citizens across the region “must be realistic about the future… adjust to a new way of life incorporating COVID-19, and redefine our sense of normal”.
“The question is no longer how do we go back to the way things were before [COVID-19], but rather how do we move forward and build a sustainable and effective outbreak response,” the PAHO Director said.
“Governments will have to make decisions considering simultaneously, health, economic and social indicators. This will allow health officials to understand where transmission is accelerating and which groups are at greater risk, so as to better target their efforts,” she added.
Dr. Etienne said that public health measures, as well as social protection efforts, “will need to be reviewed regularly to minimise the impact of the virus on our societies”.
“We will not overcome this crisis without addressing the needs of the most vulnerable… those most likely to fall sick and least likely to receive care. If we neglect them, we run the risk of the next two years [with COVID-19] looking like the past few months… and this should not happen,” she noted.