• Health, human development, and governance in Latin America and the Caribbean at the beginning of the 21st century Temas de Actualidad

    Casas-Zamora, Juan Antonio

    Abstract in English:

    The issue of the reciprocal relationship between health and development has recently taken on greater importance in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), given the persistence of extreme poverty and the political and social difficulties due to macroeconomic imbalances and crises of governance. This piece reviews concepts of sustainable human development, social determinants of health in general and of health inequities in particular (gender, ethnic group, income level), and the relationship between health and economic growth in the medium term and the long term. An analysis is made of how persistent poverty in countries of LAC relates to disparities in health conditions, access to health services, and health care financing, as well as to such health determinants as nutrition and environmental sanitation. Health inequities most strongly affect the most excluded and vulnerable sectors of the population. In the face of this situation, the author stresses that putting a priority on health inequities is vital to safeguarding the governability and the social and political stability of countries in LAC in the next decade.
  • Inequities in access to information and inequities in health Temas de Actualidad

    Pellegrini Filho, Alberto

    Abstract in English:

    This piece presents evidence that inequities in information are an important determinant of health inequities and that eliminating these inequities in access to information, especially by using new information and communication technologies (ICTs), could represent a significant advance in terms of guaranteeing the right to health for all. The piece reviews the most important international scientific research findings on the determinants of the health of populations, emphasizing the role of socioeconomic inequities and of deteriorating social capital as factors that worsen health conditions. It is noteworthy that Latin America has both socioeconomic inequities and major sectors of the population living in poverty. Among the fundamental strategies for overcoming the inequalities and the poverty are greater participation by the poor in civic life and the strengthening of social capital. The contribution that the new ICTs could make to these strategies is analyzed, and the Virtual Health Library (VHL) is discussed. Coordinated by the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information (BIREME), the VHL is a contribution by the Pan American Health Organization that takes advantage of the potential of ICTs to democratize information and knowledge and consequently promote equity in health. The "digital gap" is discussed as something that can produce inequity itself and also increase other inequities, including ones in health. Prospects are discussed for overcoming this gap, emphasizing the role that governments and international organizations should play in order to expand access to the global public good that information for social development is.
  • Globalization, international trade, and health equity Temas de Actualidad

    Vieira, Cesar

    Abstract in English:

    Globalization and international trade are having an increasingly evident impact on the day-to-day duties of the health sector, and the phenomenon has aroused a great deal of interest among governments, nongovernmental organizations, international organizations, and the mass media. Up to this point the heated and polemical debate on the subject has seriously hindered objective discourse on the health implications of globalization and international trade. This piece examines the possible impact of the two processes on health in the Region of the Americas, in order to foster policies for equity that are adopted within the framework of public health in the Americas. The piece considers the relationships among globalization, trade, and health in general and then focuses on the special case of trade in health goods and services. The piece looks at the possible impact on health equity of the agreements for integration and free trade that are being negotiated in the Americas. The piece concludes with a summary of the activities that the Pan American Health Organization has been carrying out in this area.
  • Information, communication, and equity: dilemmas in health Temas de Actualidad

    Lolas, Fernando

    Abstract in English:

    Equity, which is a form of justice, is the absence of inequalities that are evitable or unjust or that stem from preventable causes. In the area of health, it is linked to prudence that should prevail in the exercise of the health professions. Information, like any other social commodity, can be distributed in an inequitable way among different groups or populations due to technological barriers or cultural factors. However, knowledge is not just information; it is information that is aimed at a specific social purpose. Inequity in knowledge can be reduced by means of genuine communication, as Habermas proposed. This article deals with scientific communication as much as it does with public knowledge and the way information is disseminated.
  • Gender equity in health sector reform policies in Latin America and the Caribbean Temas de Actualidad

    Gómez Gómez, Elsa

    Abstract in English:

    Gender equity is increasingly being acknowledged as an essential aspect of sustainable development and more specifically, of health development. The Pan American Health Organization's Program for Women, Health, and Development has been piloting for a year now a project known as Equidad de género en las políticas de reforma del sector de salud, whose objective is to promote gender equity in the health sector reform efforts in the Region. The first stage of the project is being conducted in Chile and Peru, along with some activities throughout the Region. The core of the project is the production and use of information as a tool for introducing changes geared toward achieving greater gender equity in health, particularly in connection with male-female disparities that are unnecessary, avoidable, and unfair in health status, access to health care, and participation in decision-making within the health system. We expect that in three years the project will have brought about changes in the production of information and knowledge, advocacy, and information dissemination, as well as in the development, appropriation, and identification of intersectoral mechanisms that will make it possible for key figures in government and civil society to work together in setting and surveying policy on gender equity in health.
  • The law and equity in health Temas de Actualidad

    Bolis, Mónica

    Abstract in English:

    What role does the law play in reducing inequalities in health that are unnecessary, avoidable, and unfair? The question is addressed in this paper, whose purpose is to examine how the legal system, as a regulatory agency of the State, contributes to achieving greater equity in access to and use of health-related goods and services. From the legal viewpoint, health is a public commodity that is critical to human well-being and survival. But in prioritizing health as a human right, the legal system is challenged with finding ways to make health equally accessible to all, while bearing in mind the particular needs of different groups. There are currently important gaps in health legislation in the Region that must be addressed if greater equity in health is to be achieved. Such gaps, along with potential ways to correct them, are discussed throughout the paper.
  • Equity, gender, and health: challenges for action Temas de Actualidad

    Gómez Gómez, Elsa

    Abstract in English:

    The Governing Bodies of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) have mandated that the Organization apply a gender perspective in all aspects of the Organization's activities and its technical cooperation in the area of health with the PAHO Member States. This article points out the need to eradicate unjust gender differences that affect the right and access to health care that is appropriate for women. The piece explains the differences between equity and equality and between gender and sex, and how gender equity should come about in the state of health, in health care, and in all people's efforts to engender health. It is hoped the piece will contribute to a better understanding of the situation, thus helping to eliminate inequities that are due to sex, socioeconomic factors, and the distribution of power.
  • The Virtual Library in Equity, Health, and Human Development Temas de Actualidad

    Valdés, América

    Abstract in English:

    This article attempts to describe the rationale that has led to the development of information sources dealing with equity, health, and human development in countries of Latin America and the Caribbean within the context of the Virtual Health Library (Biblioteca Virtual en Salud, BVS). Such information sources include the scientific literature, databases in printed and electronic format, institutional directories and lists of specialists, lists of events and courses, distance education programs, specialty journals and bulletins, as well as other means of disseminating health information. The pages that follow deal with the development of a Virtual Library in Equity, Health, and Human Development, an effort rooted in the conviction that decision-making and policy geared toward achieving greater equity in health must, of necessity, be based on coherent, well-organized, and readily accessible first-rate scientific information. Information is useless unless it is converted into knowledge that benefits society. The Virtual Library in Equity, Health, and Human Development is a coordinated effort to develop a decentralized regional network of scientific information sources, with strict quality control, from which public officials can draw data and practical examples that can help them set health and development policies geared toward achieving greater equity for all.
  • People of African descent in the Region of the Americas and health equity Temas de Actualidad

    Torres, Cristina

    Abstract in English:

    The Region of the Americas and the Caribbean has a complex demographic profile from an ethnic and racial perspective. One of the largest groups is composed of persons of African descent, who in some countries, such as Brazil and the Dominican Republic, comprise 46 and 84% of the total population, respectively. Recent analyses of the statistics available in some countries of the Region show wide gaps in terms of living conditions and health in these communities, as well as gaps in access to health services. PAHO, through its Public Policy and Health Program, under the Division of Health and Human Development, supports sectorial efforts and those of civil organizations that aim to improve health conditions in this segment of the population, while taking into account their sociodemographic and cultural characteristics. This article briefly summarizes health conditions and access to health services in selected countries, as well as some aspects of the recent changes to the legislation in those countries. Finally, collaborative activities on the part of United Nations agencies and international financial institutions for the benefit of people of African descent and other ethnic minorities are described.
Organización Panamericana de la Salud Washington - Washington - United States
E-mail: contacto_rpsp@paho.org