Tue | Aug 21, 2018

Etienne begins second term as PAHO director

Published:Monday | February 5, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Dr Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization.

Dominican Dr Carissa Etienne began her second term as director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) last Thursday.

Etienne said that during her second term, she would be advocating for increased funding to be allocated to health and for that funding to be well spent and focused on primary care, with the goal of reaching the most vulnerable.

She will also prioritize strengthening of health information systems, to ensure that "we have quality data that will help us to better identify inequities and vulnerabilities and to inform the development of health policies and plans". Towards this end, Etienne recently created a new PAHO department on Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health.

Etienne is the first Caribbean woman to lead the hemispheric health organisation and will also focus on preparing health services in the region to withstand the effects of climate change.

"A key part to ensuring that the health sector responds adequately to natural disasters lies in the development of resilient health systems," she said. Her native country, Dominica, was among those countries most affected by hurricanes in the past year.

In an address at the inauguration ceremony at PAHO headquarters in Washington, DC, CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque credited Etienne's re-election to her achievements over her first five years in office.

"Reward for good work is more hard work," he stated, lauding her leadership of administrative and management changes to improve the efficiency of PAHO.

He commended its successful response to public health emergencies such as Zika, chikungunya, and cholera in the Americas, which saw a dramatic decline in the number of reported cases of those diseases.

While also applauding her leadership of PAHO for its prompt response following hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria last year, he expressed "heartfelt appreciation" for the continued assistance it continues to render to the region.

The role of health organisations such as PAHO is critical in disaster management and recovery, LaRocque said, noting the serious threat to the well-being of people in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters.

Etienne was first elected director by the countries of the Americas in September 2012. She was re-elected for a second term in September 2017 and began serving that term last week.