By: Katy Indvik, MSc
Policy Consultant, SALURBAL Project
On World Health Day 2019, SALURBAL reaffirms the global call to action to work across sectors and scales for universal health for everyone, everywhere.
Health services that ignore the role of the social and environmental determinants of health, such as where we live or the air we breathe, will not provide a sustainable solution to achieving universal health and well-being. Recent progress on this issue at the regional and local levels reflects shifting attitudes toward a broader understanding of health and its multiple determinants, and toward effective options for addressing health inequalities throughout Latin America.
First , the PAHO-convened regional forum “Universal Health in the 21st Century” marked the 40th anniversary of the Alma-Ata Declaration and produced a High-Level Commission Report–released this month– outlining ten recommendations for achieving universal health in the Americas. The recommendations move beyond primary health care provision to address social and environmental determinants of health and challenges related to health care and broader institutional models, financing, health and social protection, and human resources. Specifically, the report calls for work to “address the processes of social determination through intersectoral health interventions that promote substantive changes in the environmental, social, economic, housing, and basic infrastructure conditions of a population in a given territory.”
Also of note, the 2019 Congress of the Latin American Federation of Cities and Local Governments (FLACMA) took place last month in Santiago, Chile, with one session focusing on the specific challenges faced by local governments throughout the region in supporting improved health and well-being. Local and national authorities from across the region joined a lively discussion of these issues and worked together to outline the commission’s primary conclusions. The final document produced by the Congress recognizes an ongoing need to improve and expand the provision of primary healthcare services, but also makes an explicit call for the incorporation of a health focus within relevant public policies from all sectors, evidencing an important step toward broadening the focus and understanding of actions needed to address this issue.
Despite these important steps forward, local authorities continue to lack sufficient tools and other resources for effectively addressing the health impacts of multiple sectors. The Health in All Policies approach championed by WHO and PAHO can support process. As it enters its third year, the SALURBAL project continues to develop relevant, accessible evidence of the impacts of multi- and inter-sectoral policies , as well as other tools and information that can support decision-making for health and well-being in cities across Latin America.