A conference involving senior officials from South, Central and North American countries who are working to improve global health through better research is being held at McMaster University Oct. 17th to 19 – the first time the event has been staged in Canada.
More than 25 delegates and invited guests involved with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) will attend meetings as part of the 45th session of PAHO’s Advisory Committee on Health Research (ACHR), which is chaired by John Lavis, director of the McMaster Health Forum and associate director of CHEPA.
PAHO is the regional office of the Americas for the World Health Organization, and is comprised of 35 Member states, from Canada in the north to Argentina and Chile in the south. The organization, which has its main offices in Washington, represents the interests of nearly 50 low- , middle- and high-income countries, and works to improve health and living standards.
The ACHR is part of a system of advisory committees that guide the PAHO director, in this case in health research policy and programs. During the past several decades, the committee has played a role in PAHO-led public health accomplishments, such as promoting the use of research evidence in eradicating diseases like polio and dengue fever, improving maternal and child health in developing countries of the Americas, implementing wider vaccination programs, and increasing access to clean water. The importance of generating, understanding and using quality research to inform the ongoing work of improving health throughout the Americas is the guiding principle of the ACHR.
PAHO director Mirta Roses Periago will give a public talk Oct. 17 about disparities in health among the nations of the Americas. The PAHO recently released an exhaustive report, Health in the Americas, which highlights lingering inequities in health and well-being including:
- The infant mortality rate in the Americas varies widely, from 4.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in Cuba, to 50 in Bolivia. Canada’s rate is actually higher than Cuba’s at 5.1
- In Chile in 2010, mortality among children under the age of 5 was 11.3 times greater in the poorest quintile than in the wealthiest quintile
- Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in most of the countries of the Americas, with 30 per cent of premature deaths occurring among the poorest population quintile, and 13 per cent among the wealthiest quintile
Roses Periago, who has led PAHO for a decade, will draw from her experience and the report’s findings to discuss health conditions and trends in the Americas, social determinants of health, and the challenges of achieving equitable health among vastly different nations. The talk will be held in HSC-1A1 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., and all are welcome to attend.
Satellite activities have also been organized to give the McMaster community as well as the broader public insight into the workings of PAHO and the importance of health research. These include a digital presentation of the Art for Research exhibit, commissioned by PAHO to illustrate how health research generates wealth in countries and contributes to economic and social development as well as equity in health, at the Lyons New Media Centre for the duration of the conference.
Art for Research consists of two components: Shaping the World is a striking exhibition of photographic portraits that invite the viewer to explore the stories behind some of the most influential changes in health, development and innovation, and Research on the Move captures success stories from Latin America that came about as a direct result of health research. The exhibit will be launched at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 17.
The conference agenda includes invitation-only sessions on Thursday focusing on Strengthening health systems through health systems research. Friday’s sessions address issues such as developing research partnerships and alliances, fostering best practices and advanced standards for research, and dissemination of research findings, followed by a discussion about how to ensure that the new focus on innovation at PAHO/WHO is synergistic with the existing focus on research.