IFMSA at the Pan American Health Organization Regional Meeting

The first day of the PAHO Regional Meeting started off with welcomes from representatives of the health organizations represented at the table, including a particularly enigmatic address to delegates by Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the WHO. Re-affirming her commitments to renewal of the WHO, she also markedly made the statement that she wanted to be seen internationally as the ‘number-one enemy’ of the tobacco industry. Theatrical, perhaps, but Director General Chan relevantly framed the issues of the week ahead and animated – at least to this medical student – the core concepts in public health that are affecting the member states of the Americas and of other regions.


With some procedural motions filling the day, the highlight of this first day of meetings was the introduction of the US for an agenda item to discuss the disparities in access of healthcare resources amongst LGBT populations. Echoing the support for these populations based on concepts of equity, country after country spoke up in favour of ensuring that LGBT populations would be able to achieve the same standards of health as other populations through equal access to resources and that this would be done in an environment free of discrimination. While the main discussion on this topic will occur later in the week, the moment supported IFMSA’s position on the topic and one which the delegation is looking forward  to speaking to through an intervention.


Day two of the PAHO/WHO 52nd directing council meeting kicked off with reports on strategic planning and and responses to the first annual report – including the critical need for universal health coverage region-wide. Uruguay commented that health “is no longer a commodity, but a right”, Grenada stated “we must unite to fight dangerous enemies like the tobacco industry”, and Argentina pointed out that access to health systems must be “fair, equitable and based on primary care.”
Delegates to the 52nd Directing Council passed a resolution endorsing the PAHO Revolving Fund for Vaccine Procurement, including policy to ensure that vaccines purchased through the Fund are acquired at the lowest price.
Dr Nils Daulaire of the US delegation introduced the agenda item calling on Member States to work to promote the provision of health services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Aliye Runyan of AMSA-USA read the IFMSA intervention based on the Equitable Health Care Regardless of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy statement adopted at AM2012. There was much support in the room for the equal inclusion of all peoples in health services and protection from discrimination, and the resolution passed with unanimous support. Hopefully the solidarity reached in the Americas will carry through to productive discussion on this issue at the WHO meeting.

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