PAHO launches high-level commission on inequality and health in the region

The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) has launched a new Commission on Equity and Health Inequalities in the Region of the Americas.

The commission will lead the Review of Equity and Health Inequalities in the Americas, the first large-scale effort to gather evidence on health inequities in the Americas. Both the commission and review are part of a partnership between PAHO/WHO’s secretariat and member countries and the Institute of Health Equity at University College London (UCL).

The commission will be chaired by Sir Michael Marmot, director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity and former chair of WHO’s global Commission on Social Determinants of Health. It will bring together more than a dozen leading international experts on health policy and social determinants of health.

“PAHO has commissioned the Review of Equity and Health Inequalities in the Americas to address one broad and pervasive problem: factors that should not determine health outcomes are, in fact, deciding them for an enormous number of people,” said PAHO/WHO Director Carissa Etienne.

“Characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, legal and socioeconomic status are among the greatest risk factors for ill health, injury and mortality across the Americas.”

The commission will investigate how these factors influence health in the Americas and will make concrete recommendations for action to address them with an eye to reducing or eliminating the health equity gaps they produce.

“The Commission on Equity and Health Inequalities in the Americas presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the fundamental causes of health inequalities in this region,” said Sir Michael.

“There is no biological reason why these inequalities exist. The fact that they do is a matter of social injustice. This commission brings together the expertise required to address them properly and sustainably.”

Etienne noted that the commission’s work, which will take two years, will support PAHO/WHO’s efforts to help countries in the Americas achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Region of the Americas.

In addition to Sir Michael Marmot, the members of the Commission on Equity and Health Inequalities in the Region of the Americas include Paulo Buss and Cesar Victora of Brazil, Nila Heredia of Bolivia, Tracy Robinson of Jamaica, Cindy Blackstock of Canada, Mirna Cunningham of Nicaragua, Maria Paula Romo of Ecuador, Pastor Murillo of Colombia, Mabel Bianco of Argentina, and David Satcher, Kathy Greenlee and Victor Abramovich of the United States.

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