Brazilian doctor Jarbas Barbosa takes over this Wednesday (1st) as director general of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). On Tuesday (31), Barbosa’s sworn-in ceremony was held at PAHO headquarters in Washington, USA, to begin the mandate from 2023 to 2028.
PAHO is the specialized international health agency of the Inter-American System and the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO) and will celebrate its 120th anniversary in 2022. In addition to its headquarters in the US capital, it has 27 representations and three centers specialized in other countries on the continent. Jarbas Barbosa was assistant director to Carissa Etienne, from Dominica, who had led the organization since 2012, and is now her successor.
“Ending the covid-19 pandemic and building resilient health are priorities”, said the new director of the organization.
According to Barbosa, the pandemic highlighted the importance of universal health for both the public and heads of state.
“It is urgent that we transform this attention into strengthening health systems, facing the problems and shortcomings that still exist and guaranteeing the right to health for all the peoples of our region”, he said in his inauguration speech in Washington.
A sanitary doctor and epidemiologist, born in Pernambuco, Jarbas Barbosa worked at municipal, state and national levels in the Unified Health System (SUS), becoming president of the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) between 2015 and 2018.
The Minister of Health, Nísia Trindade, was present at the ceremony and highlighted the professional career of Jarbas Barbosa.
“As a specialist in public health, he has always fought to defend the principles of a Brazilian health reform and to work towards an inclusive and solidary society that considers health as a universal right”, said the minister.
In a note, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Health highlight that Barbosa’s inauguration reinforces Brazil’s commitment “to inter-American cooperation and solidarity for the realization of the right of every person to enjoy the highest possible level of physical and mental health It also reinforces its role in the international health scenario, which has the Unified Health System (SUS) as a world reference for a universal public system”.
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On January 19, the newly appointed minister had already signed new cooperation agreements with PAHO to accelerate vaccination campaigns against covid-19 and other diseases, such as polio and measles.
The general director of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also accompanied the Brazilian doctor’s inauguration.
“You start your job as a regional director at a difficult time – with rising inflation and debt, tight budgets, political division and war. But you also start at an important time (…) we seek to accelerate progress towards to the triple billion goals”, he highlighted.
WHO’s “triple-billion” targets aim to reach one billion more people worldwide with universal health coverage, with more than one billion people protected from health emergencies and another billion citizens enjoying better health and wellness.
Editing: Thales Schmidt
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