The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) serves as the specialized organization for health of the Inter-American System and also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization. It is an international public health agency with more than 100 years of experience in working to improve health and living standards of the countries of the Americas. It enjoys international recognition as part of the United Nations system.
PAHO is based in Washington, D.C. with 27 country offices, and nine scientific centers dealing with priority health issues. The health authorities of PAHO’s Member States set PAHO’s technical and administrative policies through its governing bodies. PAHO Member States include all 35 countries in the Americas with Puerto Rico is an Associate Member. The participating states are France, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Portugal and Spain are observer states.
The essential mission of PAHO is to strengthen national and local health systems and improve the health of the peoples of the Americas, in collaboration with Ministries of Health, other government and international agencies, nongovernmental organizations, universities, social security agencies, and community groups.
PAHO assists countries in fighting old diseases such as cholera, dengue and tuberculosis, and new diseases such as the spreading AIDS epidemic, providing technical cooperation including education and social communications support, promoting work with non-governmental organizations, and support for programs to prevent transmission of communicable diseases. The organization is involved in promoting the use of research evidence to inform health care decisions through the implementation of knowledge translation strategies such as the Evidence Informed Policy Network. Moreover, PAHO targets the most vulnerable groups including mothers and children, workers, the poor, the elderly, and refugees and displaced persons. PAHO and its Member Countries are committed to improving the safety of blood in the Americas, launching a blood safety initiative designed to ensure that all blood for transfusion is free of disease and to increase the number of volunteer blood donors.
PAHO is mobilizing new political, institutional and financial resources to prevent an additional 25,000 infant deaths every year through application of the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness strategy. PAHO assists the countries in mobilizing the necessary resources to provide immunization and treatment services for all vaccine-preventable diseases. PAHO is close to accomplishing the goal of eliminating measles and is pressing on with the introduction of new vaccines such as Haemophilus influenza B. to reduce meningitis and respiratory infections. PAHO works to reduce the toll of death and illness from diarrheal diseases, including cholera, through case management and oral rehydration therapy to prevent deaths from dehydration, and to provide adequate diagnosis and treatment of acute respiratory infections.
The Organization also provides technical collaboration in a variety of specialized public health fields, and organizes emergency preparedness and disaster relief coordination. It supports efforts to strengthen national health systems, develop national health research systems, control malaria, Chagas’ disease, urban rabies, leprosy, and other diseases that affect the people of the Americas. PAHO collaborates with governments, other agencies, and private groups to address major nutritional problems including protein-energy malnutrition, and is also working to eliminate iodine and vitamin A deficiencies.
The Organization also executes projects for other United Nations agencies, for international organizations such as the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, for official development cooperation agencies of various governments, and for philanthropic foundations.
PAHO strengthens the health sector capacity in the countries by promoting an integral approach to health problems. PAHO trains health workers through fellowships, courses and seminars, and the strengthening of national training institutions. Working with journalists in many countries, PAHO leads in the use of advanced communications technologies for information, health promotion, and education.
The Pan American Sanitary Bureau (PASB), the Secretariat of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is the oldest international health agency in the world. The Bureau is committed to providing technical support and leadership to PAHO Member States as they pursue their goal of “Health for All”.