28th Pan American Sanitary Conference: [Day 2] “Health in the Americas”

A fresh and cloudy morning welcomed us as we headed to 525 Twenty-third Street. Walking was the best morning energizer to positively start our second day of work at the 28th Pan American Sanitary Conference in Washington D.C. A promising day to actively participate and speak out for our Federation with the intervention regarding the NDC’s regional strategic plan.


The agenda started with the PAHO program and budget 2010-2011, the presentation of the PAHO Budget Policy and continued with the release of the report on “Health in the Americas” (link).

Average life expectancy in Latin America and the Caribbean rose from 29 years in 1900 to 74 years in 2010, and today 98% of children live to see their first birthday, while 100 years ago only 75% did. However, inequalities persist among and within countries, according to the 2012 edition of Health in the Americas. As Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, director of the PAHO, said: “Each country is a mosaic of situations, places, and communities, and every number, every piece of information, and every statistic represents the face, life, health, and hopes of a single, unique individual, each face has a voice, each voice expresses a need, and each need calls for action.”


We therefore welcomed this report which we think represents our best opportunity to advocate for the renewal of the commitment to construct a sustainable and evidence based post MDG agenda.

IFMSA, representing medical students from more than 100 countries worldwide, advocates locally and globally to build a post-MDG agenda where Health Equity For All is built on a shared vision of development across the lifecourse and achieved through:

A)Policy integration,

We acknowledge the effort that has been made towards poverty eradication and development but outline the limited progress made in bringing together the historically independent social, economic and environmental policy at both national and international levels. The macroeconomic approach to solving poverty-related disease is simply insufficient to meet the demand of countries. We need to utilize the current momentum to keep the efforts and achieve cross- sectorial integration.


Recognizing WHO’s considerable increasing work in this area – especially with NGOs, who we believe have a great capacity to positively influence the direction of the Organization. We call for cooperation and collaboration between organizations and countries working towards the same goals to address the unfinished agenda of unnecessary, preventable deaths of mothers, children, and other vulnerable population groups and to continue and renew efforts to sustain achievements in health.

C)Engagement of young people.

Youth comprise nearly 30% of the world’s population. Youth have the greatest at stake in our quest for a sustainable after 2015 agenda.

IFMSA is already working to shape the future health and sustainability agenda; we are agents of change and catalysts of development in our countries. The need for more meaningful opportunities of youth involvement in policy and implementation work is one of our major interests as representatives and voice of medical students worldwide so that together with our governments we can find and implement equitable solutions to improve the health and lives of people worldwide.

The agenda went on with the Strategy and plan of action on noncommunicable diseases. In the context of the epidemiological transition the growing importance of noncommunicable diseases as a cause of mortality is not new. What has changed is the recognition of the enormity of the social and economic consequences of a failure to act on this knowledge. It is evident that sums in the order of US$ 11 billion spent now on cost-effective interventions can prevent over US$ 40 trillion-worth of future damage to the world’s economies. Nevertheless, there remains a significant gap between rhetoric and reality when it comes to concrete action and the allocation of resources.1

Where Sachalee Campbell (IFMSA Jamaica) gave an outstanding intervention (http://psc28.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/civil-society-representatives-support-ncd-strategy/) that highlighted our concern about the proposed strategies. The intervention remarked that :

  1. 1.     The NCD crisis is about equity.

Multi-sectoral strategies to reduce the imbalance of social determinants of health must be integrated with efforts to control NCDs as further social inequity will only exacerbate the crisis.

  1. 2.     NCDs are a cross-sectoral issue.

NCDs are closely linked to all three pillars of sustainable development – economic growth, social equity, and environmental protection. The WHO and member states have a powerful voice in this debate and can highlight the potential of sustainable development policies to tackle NCDs. We therefore ask if member-states have consider the implications of both bilateral and multi-lateral free trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement that includes multiple countries in the Americas on access to affordable treatments for NCDs and the potential threat to sustainable development policies including access to nutritious food, clean energy, and healthy environments?

  1. 3.     Progress should be measured by both health and non-health indicators.

In order to accurately evaluate the effectiveness of integrating sustainable development policies to control NCDs.

  1. 4.     Young people should be involved.

Young people in the Americas and worldwide are interested in improving the health statuses of their countries. It is important that we recognize that young people are able to influence development in our region.


We as IFMSA represent medical students from more than one hundred countries – young people who also suffer from NCDs. As the health professionals of tomorrow, we are committed to combating this major health challenge of our generation.

As Zac Ephron (High School Musical) said “We are all in this together”!

Hugs from Washington,

Altagracia Mares

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