Health ministers agree on eliminating more than 30 communicable diseases

Health Minister Molwyn Joseph

Ministers of health, including those from the Caribbean, agreed on a collective approach to eliminate more than 30 communicable diseases and related conditions in Latin America and the Caribbean by the year 2030.

The ministers reached the agreement during the 57th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) now taking place here this week.

The PAHO Disease Elimination Initiative: A Policy for an Integrated Sustainable Approach to Communicable Diseases in the Americas targets a list of diseases considered to be prime candidates for elimination, including HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B and C, schistosomiasis, trachoma, Chagas disease, malaria, cholera, human rabies and others.

“Beyond the human cost on individuals, families and communities, communicable diseases also have a huge economic impact on health systems,” said PAHO’s Dominica-born Director, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne.

“A collective regionwide approach will enable countries to consolidate their efforts and resources to prevent epidemics and ultimately to put an end to these diseases once and for all,” she added.

In addition to communicable diseases, the initiative targets cervical cancer as a disease with major potential for elimination as a public health problem. The initiative also seeks to eliminate open defecation and the use of polluting cooking fuels.

Director of PAHO’s Department of Communicable Diseases and Environmental Determinants of Health, Marcos Espinal, said “we need to make medicines, diagnostic methods, vaccines and other technologies accessible to those who need them, especially vulnerable groups who are disproportionately affected by these diseases.

“Eliminating communicable diseases is a vital part of achieving health for all, and as a region we are very close.”

The Elimination Initiative sets out four strategic lines of action: integration of health systems and services to facilitate a comprehensive approach to multiple diseases, particularly at the primary care level; strengthening of disease surveillance and information systems to monitor progress toward elimination; addressing social and environmental determinants of health; and strengthening governance, financing, and leadership in ministries of health.

The initiative recognizes that disease elimination does not depend solely on the health sector but requires the engagement of other actors, both inside and outside government, with clear definition of roles and responsibilities.

PAHO said that throughout the past 116 years, along with its member states, they have played a leading role in disease elimination both in the Americas and globally.

PAHO said it led the eradication of smallpox, gone in the region by 1971 and globally by 1980, and the regional elimination of polio and neonatal tetanus in 1994 and 2017 respectively.

“Thanks to the introduction of the hepatitis B vaccine into routine immunization programs over 25 years ago, the region is also approaching elimination of perinatal and early childhood transmission of that disease, as part of the successful EMTCT Plus Initiative, which seeks to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B, and Chagas disease. Additionally, the region is also nearing elimination of onchocerciasis (river blindness), lymphatic filariasis and schistosomiasis,” PAHO said in a statement.



  1. Trying to eliminate these communicable diseases is a great initiative and I do hope that the govts around the region along with us the people who also has a responsibility will be successful in do so…. Now, on the otherhand, our govts need to put into effect high taxes on foods etc that cause non communicable diseases….. We are facing an epidemic and many persons are plagued with death and cancer due to these foods… Certain seasoning like MSG should be made illegal…… A healthy nation can only thrive well from foods coming from the ground & trees…..

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