The director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr Carissa Etienne, on Wednesday told regional countries that urgent investment is key to improving health systems continuously weakened by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
She said with the pandemic siphoning off financial and human resources, many countries have reported interruptions in vital areas, such as routine immunization programs, support for chronic conditions, and mental and reproductive health services.
She said despite these disruptions, public investment in health has risen in many countries to ramp up ICU capacity, increase hospital services, and deploy COVID-19 vaccines. But these increases cannot be a short-term trend, the PAHO director added.
She told the weekly news briefing that all countries should increase public expenditures in their health systems to the recommended six percent of national gross domestic product (GDP) or higher and should ensure that 30 percent of this funding goes to first-level care.
“Primary care, as you have heard us say over and over again, is the backbone of our health systems and more important than ever. It’s at the primary care level that COVID testing, contact tracking and tracing, and immunizations take place.”
The PAHO director acknowledged that as economies remain strained, countries face difficult choices about how to spend limited funds.