Argentina's Health Minister Elected President Of Pan American Sanitary Conference By Health Ministers From 35 Countries Meeting In Washington

September 21, 1998

Washington, September 21, 1998 -- Ministers of Health from all the countries of the Americas today elected Dr. Alberto Mazza, Minister of Health and Social Action of Argentina, as President of the 25th Pan American Sanitary Conference of the Pan American Health Organization. Elected as vice-presidents were Dr. Elizabeth Thompson, Minister of Health and Environment of Barbados, and Dr. Marco A. Rosa Zelaya, Secretary of Health of Honduras.

The meeting, in which the Ministers set health policy for the Americas, solve regional issues affecting the health of all the people, and elect the Director of PAHO, opened today with speeches by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Donna Shalala, and WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland. The meeting runs through Friday, Sept. 25.

Dr. Shalala said the United States is "redoubling our efforts to curb tobacco use by young people. And we know that our efforts can not stop at our borders. Every day in this world thousands of young people light up their first cigarettes. If current trends continue, about 250 million children alive in the world today eventually will be killed by tobacco. We must join together across the Americas, and across the globe to help our children resist the lure of tobacco."

Dr. Shalala called for expansion of worldwide access to immunization and extension of health services to all, saying "We must empower women and their families with economic, educational and social rights and progress. We must eliminate violence in the home, and against women and young people." She called for escalation in the global fight against infectious diseases "and against every disease and illness that threatens the dignity, the strength and the humanity of our countries - and of our continents."

Dr. Brundtland, who took office as Director-General of WHO in July, in her remarks to the Ministers called for political, financial and ethical commitment and responsible use of science can to find better ways to prevent and treat the constantly evolving disease challenges, saying "We go nowhere unless we succeed in building healthy populations in healthy communities."

Dr. Brundtland noted that "Important determinants of better health lie outside the health system. They include better education. A cleaner and safer environment. Sustained reductions in poverty. We simply cannot appreciate the health challenges by only focusing on the health sector."

Key items under consideration by the Conference include: AIDS in the Americas, Health of older persons, health impact of El Niño, vaccines and immunization, population and reproductive health, strategic orientations in health for 1999-2002, presentation of the new Health in the Americas report, and election of the Director of PAHO.
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For additional information please contact Daniel Epstein, Information Officer, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Washington (202) 974.3459, fax (202) 974.3143, e-mail: epsteind@paho.org. For television stations or networks, the office has B-roll available on most of the topics being discussed. http://www/paho.org
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Pan American Health Organization

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