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Who is Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr., the New Director of the Pan American Health Organization?

The Brazilian Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr. will be the New Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) for a Period of 5 years. We tell you About his Profile and the Challenges at the Helm of this Fundamental Organization for Health in Latin America.

Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr.

Photo: PAHO.org

LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: ¿Quién es Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr., nuevo director de la Organización Panamericana de la Salud?

Dr. Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr. was elected as director of the Pan American Health Organization to replace the Dominican Carisaa F. Etienne, who served for 10 years at the head of this organization. The election was held on Wednesday, September 28, during the 30th Pan American Sanitary Conference. The election was close with the candidate from Panama, Camilo Alleyne. The Brazilian obtained 21 votes (he needed 20 to be elected). His mandate will begin, initially for 5 years, on February 1, 2023.

Barbosa is not new to PAHO, since he currently holds the position of deputy director, where he has been in charge of leading access to vaccines against COVID-19 and the development of technologies in the continent for pharmacological and medical developments. His election also comes at a key moment for health management on the continent, after the pandemic that left many areas of health behind.

Profile of Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr.

He is a doctor from the Federal University of Pernambuco, in Brazil. The new director of PAHO has a specialization in epidemiology and public health from the National School of Public Health (ENSP), Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro. He also has a master's degree in medical sciences and a doctorate in public health from the State University of Campinas, in São Paulo.

He has held various positions in his native country: Director of the National Epidemiology Center (CENEPI), from 1997 to 2003; Secretary of Health Surveillance and Secretary of Science, Technology and Strategic Inputs of the Ministry of Health, to which he joined in 2011; and President of the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA), from 2015 to 2018. In the Pan American Health Organization, in 2007 he served as Manager of the Health Surveillance and Disease Prevention and Control Area. Subsequently, he was summoned to be deputy director of PAHO in July 2018.

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On the other hand, he has a research trajectory in various areas of public health. Some of his most recent publications are on healthy aging in the Americas, the impact of the coronavirus, inequality, the impact of metal contamination in rivers, the development of technologies for food and drug safety, and health surveillance.

"My commitment is to continue with the same values of this organization. Solidarity and the search for all countries to work in a coordinated manner to improve the quality of life and health in our region," said Dr. Jarbas Barbosa da Silva in In his acceptance speech, he stated that he hopes to increase the coordinated work of all the countries in the region.

Challenges of the Pan American Health Organization

PAHO is celebrating its 120 year anniversary. Although significant progress has been made in improving health indicators in the region, today there are great challenges. Many of them have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which until now is being controlled. Outgoing director Carissa F. Etienne noted that deficiencies in vaccination have "set back nearly three decades of progress in childhood immunization in recent years."

Dr. Etienne, in her exit report entitled "Defending Equity in Health for Sustainable Development", points to the enormous inequality present in the region of the Americas, exacerbated by COVID-19. In this sense, ensuring that vulnerable populations have access to health services that guarantee their physical as well as mental and emotional health is a challenge for the new director. In this sense, the report indicates that financing will be one of the keys: "The leaders of the Region must commit to increasing strategic investments in health, since the continuous lack of investment, even in the first level of care and in specific threats to health, such as NCDs, makes it difficult to execute more agile, consolidated and efficient responses".

Likewise, the report points out the need to accelerate the digital transformation in health and create focuses of attention in the groups that have historically been more vulnerable. That is, to have a gender approach, with the LGTBIQ+ community, migrants, the elderly and children.

On the other hand, there is an imminent situation that must be responded to quickly, "While monkeypox cases remain at around 40,000 in the Americas, PAHO today asked the countries to intensify response actions, prioritizing detection, surveillance and community participation," says a United Nations report.

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