Latin America CDC a Must

In Global, Global Advocacy, Global Featured, News by Brian Shepherd

In response to the unprecedented challenges that Latin America has faced during various health crises such as AH1N1, Zika, COVID-19, and Dengue, a prominent group of former health ministers and public health academics from the region has published in the prestigious journal The Lancet the need to create the Latin American Regional Center for Disease Prevention and Control (LATAM CDC). This new agency would seek to strengthen regional resilience against future health crises through collaboration and resource optimization among nations.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Latin America, home to approximately 8.2% of the world’s population, reported about 80 million cases and 1.7 million deaths, representing 10% and 25% of global figures, respectively. This impact underscores the lack of effective collaboration among the region’s countries, which limited the optimal use of regional resources, such as coordinated negotiation and acquisition of health inputs, diagnostic tests, ventilators, medications, and vaccines.

Patricia J. Garcia, former health minister of Peru, principal professor of the Faculty of Public Health of the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, and one of the initiative’s proponents, emphasized the importance of this regional collaboration: “The experience with COVID-19 demonstrated critical deficiencies in our public health infrastructure. The LATAM CDC will serve as a fundamental pillar for prevention, preparedness, and rapid response to future health emergencies, thus strengthening our regional health sovereignty.”

Enrique Paris, former health minister of Chile and current president of the Institute of Public Health Policies of the University of San Sebastian, highlighted the need to overcome the regional political and ideological barriers that have traditionally hindered effective cooperation: “Our goal with the LATAM CDC is to transcend political divisions and provide a unified and scientifically validated response to public health crises. This is an essential step to protect the health and safety of our populations.”

Jorge Saavedra, Executive Director of the AHF Global Public Health Institute, commented on the proposed governance structure for the LATAM CDC, which seeks to include a wide range of actors: “We propose an inclusive governance model, similar to the Africa CDC or that of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which integrates governments, academic institutions, international organizations, the private sector, civil society, and communities. This diverse and collaborative structure is crucial for the success of the LATAM CDC.”

The LATAM CDC aspires to be a technical center of excellence, free from political interference, promoting horizontal (south-south) cooperation between countries, training public health professionals, standardizing practices for prevention, preparedness, and response to pandemics, and strengthening national health systems. Additionally, it proposes to improve data collection and sharing capabilities and perform real-time regional disease surveillance.

This body will also seek to develop public health goods, such as response models and new digital technologies, and have the authority to declare Regional Public Health Security Emergencies, which would allow for more agile and effective resource mobilization compared to current procedures that depend on declarations of emergencies by the World Health Organization.

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