The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is in Belize on a working visit. Dr Carissa Etienne arrived in the country on Sunday and has since been in several meetings and sessions. Last night she spoke with the media following a health forum held at the Radisson Fort George Hotel in Belize City where a Country Cooperation Strategy was signed for the period 2017 – 2021. The strategy is a working document aligned with Belize’s Ministry of Health and includes various forms in which PAHO will be helping in achieving the health goals. Dr Etienne explained.
DR CARISSA ETIENNE
“The presentation tonight was on universal health coverage, universal access to health and in particular we looked at the financing of the health system the need for investments, increasing domestic investments but with an eye into equity, we also touched on the social determinants of health and how those contributed to the health status and wellbeing of people and importantly we spoke about the various elements that are required for strengthening health systems.”
As countries in the Caribbean and other regions seek to provide access to healthcare for all, Dr Etienne spoke of the financial obligations and resources that need to be looked at.
DR CARISSA ETIENNE
“What we are advocating for is moving towards the pooling of health services. Now the pooling of the resources will come from several sources but it must all come to one pool. So government investments are usually through taxation so ensuring that you collect the taxes it can come from national health insurance or other insurance schemes and then it can also come from something that we call syntaxes. We need to put taxes on cigarettes, sugary drinks and unhealthy foods and some governments then make the decision to invest those taxes into the pooling mechanism but the pooling of resources constitutes the best way to provide for all people. We know that if the out of pocket payment is more than 30% a significant percentage of your population will become poor if they seek health services hence the need to address health financing.”
According to Dr Etienne there are multiple factors to be considered when working towards an acceptable health standards for the country.
DR CARISSA ETIENNE
“So it has long been established that to have a healthy population they need access to what we call the social and environmental determinants of health. To be healthy you need good housing, access to water and sanitation, access to water, health services, access to work that pays so all of those factors go into the entire process of being healthy and staying well. So therefore the Ministry of Agriculture must be involved, the Ministry of Education must be involved, the minister of transport we are not ever going to be able to address road safety without the Ministry of Transport, legislation needs to be involved so all of the various sectors, all of government but also the private sector and civil society needs to get on board if we are going to ensure health and wellbeing for all and it is important to ensure health and well-being for all. It is important to ensure health and well-being for all because that contributes to human development and human development contributes to sustainable development. So if we want to eradicate poverty, if we want people to have a good standard of living we have to invest in health.”
Dr Etienne is on a regional tour and is scheduled to leave Belize tomorrow. During her time in Belize, she is meeting with Cabinet Ministers including the Prime Minister and the technical advisors in the Ministry of Health.