On the eve of Wellness Week 2021, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is calling on governments to strengthen social support mechanisms to foster health equity and help people cope with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery.
PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne said in a video message marking Wellness Week celebrated September 11-17, said: “I want to strongly urge all governments and individuals to make more concerted and determined efforts to build equitable communities so that together we can dismantle those barriers that prevent all people from having the same opportunities for health, wellness, and well-being,”
Dr. Etienne continued: “However, one lesson that this pandemic has also taught us is that it is not enough for communities to come together. Individuals facing difficulties should not have to rely on the kindness and good will of their neighbors just to survive. Health and well-being for everyone can only be achieved when governments provide a safety net…”
This year’s Wellness Week recognizes the pandemic-induced deterioration of conditions for people in situations of vulnerability in Latin America and the Caribbean. Poverty rose to levels not seen in 12 years in 2020, and extreme poverty reached levels not seen in 20 years, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The decline has worsened the already severe divide between rich and poor in the region.
In her video message, Dr. Etienne addressed these populations, emphasizing that “implementing meaningful social support measures to protect people such as migrants, those living in poverty, workers in the informal sector, the majority of whom are women, or in precarious working conditions, or residences of crowded housing, and those living in other conditions of vulnerability is the only way to move toward greater equity in health and well-being.”
She also called attention to solidarity within communities, such as soup kitchens established throughout the region, that has already been vital to helping people cope with the impacts of the pandemic.
She said: “I would like to take this opportunity to honor all of those persons among us who have come together in the spirt of solidarity to support their communities to face the hardships generated by this pandemic.”
Initially focused on preventing disease, Wellness Week has expanded to highlight how health promotion is essential at the community level for health and well-being.
This year’s campaign builds on the World Health Day call for health equity. The campaign – organized by PAHO in collaboration with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Alliance of Associations of Public Health in Latin America (AASPA) – highlights the vital role that community solidarity plays in achieving health and well-being for all.