WASHINGTON, CMC – Brazilian Dr. Jarbas Barbosa was sworn in on Tuesday as the new Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), pledging to work in partnership with member states to end the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and ensure that the region’s health systems recover more robust than before. He will take office on 1 February 2023.
“Countries in the Americas face a complex epidemiological landscape, with the stubborn persistence of communicable diseases, the risk of outbreaks and epidemics, the rise of non-communicable diseases, the damage caused by traffic accidents and violence, and the impacts of climate change,” said Barbosa.
“We need strong, resilient health systems that can perform all the Essential Public Health Functions adequately,” said Barbosa, who formerly served as Assistant Director at PAHO and succeeded Dominican-born Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, who did a two-five-year term.
“As I hand over this office and hand the steering wheel over to my esteemed friend and colleague, Jarbas, I am confident that the future of the organization will be in good hands as you will bring to your new role exceptional technical expertise, astute policy-making skills, together with pragmatism and wisdom from your many years of experience gained in your home country of Brazil as well as internationally,” said Dr. Etienne.
Dr. Barbosa was sworn in at a ceremony held at the Organization of American States (OAS). PAHO is the specialized international health agency for the inter-American system and Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).
In his address, Dr. Barbosa referred to the “significant inequalities between and within countries” and, to ensure post-pandemic recovery and preparedness, said his tenure will focus on five strategic pillars:
He said this would end the pandemic with the tools countries have, including surveillance and vaccines, and apply the lessons learned from the pandemic to prepare for future health emergencies.
Guarantee rapid and equitable access to health innovations for all countries in the region, build resilient national health systems based on Primary Health Care and strengthen PAHO’s capacity to help member states.
“I will work tirelessly to ensure that PAHO maintains all of its many achievements to date, renewing itself every step of the way, always building networks and working as a bridge for understanding, solidarity, and innovation,” The Brazilian-born PAHO director said.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic had underscored the importance of universal health to the public and heads of state like never before.
“It is urgent that we make use of this attention to strengthen health systems, address persistent issues and shortcomings, and ensure the right to health of all peoples in our region. One hundred and twenty years ago, our countries proposed an alliance to improve the health of our people and face outbreaks and epidemics together.
“The dream of pan-Americanism. The dream is that solidarity among the countries of the Americas is a powerful force that can improve the lives of our people. We stand here today, 120 years later, encouraged by these dreams, which remain alive and continue to inspire us,” Dr. Barbosa added.
Brazil’s Minister of Health, Nisia Trindade Lima, described Dr. Barbosa as a thinker and a builder who transforms ideas into lasting intuitional practices.
“Throughout his extensive career, he has worn many hats at different levels within the single health system. As a public health expert, he always fought to defend the principles of Brazilian health reform and work towards an inclusive and solidary society that places health as a universal right.”
Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of Health, Molwyn Joseph, said “today, Dr. Jarbas, you commence the task of continuing the excellent work of the long line of leaders who have assisted the countries of the Americas over the last 120 years.
“You now have the opportunity to carve your path and destiny as you steer us in a post-pandemic era with its ongoing challenges. I do not doubt that your experience, technical knowledge, and passion for what public health can offer will allow you to attain your goal of building a better, more equitable world with universal health.”
US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, said | that created by necessity, hardened by crisis, and maintained by brotherhood, for more than 100 years, PAHO has been tested and has risen to meet every challenge in its path.
“Dr. Barbosa, you have the great task of leading this organization at a particularly challenging time. We must put into practice all that we have learned from COVID-19 while also recognizing the next health emergency could be lurking in the shadows, ready to emerge at any time.”
For his part, OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, told the new PAHO director he is assuming the leadership of the organization “at a critical juncture for the hemisphere, the moment in which the lessons learned from COVID-19 in the region, and in the world, must be applied so that in the future we can face similar situations in the best possible way.”
WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told Dr. Barbosa, “you begin your work as regional director at a difficult time – with rising inflation and debt, squeezed budgets, and divisive politics and war.
“But also, you begin at an important time, as the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, and we seek to jump-start progress towards the triple billion targets and the sustainable development goals.”
Barbadian Sir George Alleyne, Director Emeritus of PAHO, said, “to be director of the Pan American Health Organization is an almost sacred trust, but I am sure that you will discharge that trust with honor to yourself and with benefit to the health of the peoples of the Americas.” In contrast, Carlyle de Macedo, another Director Emeritus of PAHO, said Dr. Jarbas Barbosa has all the qualities to be an excellent director and fulfill his mission with significant efficacy.
“His technical capacity demonstrated, through his diverse and successful professional experience, all the qualities and attributes of a leader.”
Another Director Emeritus of PAHO, Mirta Roses, said, “since the beginning of his career, [Dr. Jarbas Barbosa] has demonstrated an open and reflective attitude, willing to listen, conciliate, and implement decisions.
“He has the capacity and experience in political and institutional management, and extensive knowledge of PAHO and WHO, international cooperation and partners and allies, as well as the countries of the region, communities, and civil society organizations.”