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Better health care Etienne’s aim

Dr. Carissa Etienne

Dr. Carissa Etienne

Promises to work with member states to develop new and innovated approaches to deliver better health care results were amongst the commitments made by new Regional Director for the Americas of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Carissa Etienne.

“I will continue to work with member states to develop new and innovative approaches to deliver results with increased efficiency and coherence, and to share these experiences with all of WHO.

“PAHO member states acknowledge that their achievements are not even. Within and between countries, persistent fundamental inequities mean that wide health gaps still exist. As regional director, I will work with countries to address these imbalances and to prioritise vulnerable and marginalised populations. A rights-based approach to health is critical to ensuring fairness,” she said in her acceptance speech yesterday in Geneva where the WHO is hosting its 132nd session this week.

Etienne was elected regional director of the Pan American Health Organisation by the countries of the Americas on September 19, 2012 during the 28th Pan American Sanitary Conference.

She will begin her five-year term as PAHO Director and WHO Regional Director on February 1, succeeding Dr. Mirta Roses Periago of Argentina.

A native of Dominica, Etienne stressed the importance of the evolution of health systems to meet contemporary needs and furthermore added: “I believe strongly that good health is rooted in equity, universality, solidarity and inclusiveness.

“I have learned that universal health coverage is not only the best way to improve the health of every citizen in a country — but that it is entirely feasible.”

This universal coverage, she noted, meant that the entire population should have access to necessary health services of prevention, promotion, treatment and care without fear of financial distress in doing so.

It would mean the establishment of additional social and financial mechanisms, she said, delivery networks, reliable supplies of safe and effective medicines and technologies to name a few.

“Over the years, I have often been frustrated by piecemeal approaches to strengthening health systems and services. Health systems are like cars. You can have the shiniest car body in the world, but if the brakes don’t work, or if the steering doesn’t work, you are not going to get far out of the garage.

“I have also been disappointed by tendencies to second guess — or even ignore — the needs and expectations of people from all walks of life. In development circles, there is much talk about country ownership. I pledge that as regional director of PAHO, I will strive to make country ownership a reality, and to work that all stakeholders have a seat at local and national health decision-making tables.”

Etienne holds degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of the West Indies, as well as a master’s in community health and an honorary diploma in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

She has served in many capacities both nationally, regionally and internationally, including Director of Primary Health Care Services and Disaster Coordinator in Dominica, Assistant Director of the PAHO, WHO’s Regional Office for the Americas, and Assistant Director-General, Health Systems and Services, at WHO headquarters in Geneva. (LB/PR)

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