Ninth Conference of Spouses of Heads of State and Government of the Americas


Backgrounder:  Pan American Health Organization

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is a hemispheric agency that has been working to improve public health and living standards in the region since its foundation in 1902. PAHO is the Americas’ regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Headquartered in Washington, DC, PAHO’s basic task is to collaborate with ministries of health, social security agencies, national and local health-care systems, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to improve the delivery of health-care services to the peoples of the Americas. It employs scientific and technical experts in seven countries and nine research centres to support regional efforts to deal with priority health concerns.

PAHO often targets the most vulnerable groups, including mothers and children, workers, the poor, the elderly, refugees and displaced persons. It is dedicated to improving women’s health, and promotes the greater integration of women in society, as well as their importance as providers of health-care services.

PAHO and its 38 member countries have embarked on a region-wide effort to halt the cholera epidemic through the development of emergency national control plans and programs to improve drinking water supplies. PAHO was successful in eradicating smallpox in the Americas in 1973 and polio in 1994. PAHO also began measles elimination efforts in 1990, and supports ongoing efforts to control malaria, urban rabies, leprosy and other indigenous diseases. As well, it helps countries to fight the spreading AIDS epidemic, and organizes emergency preparedness and disaster relief co-ordination programs.

PAHO collaborates with governments to address major nutritional problems such as protein-energy malnutrition, and is now working to eliminate iodine and vitamin A deficiencies. PAHO also addresses newer health problems brought about by increasing urbanization, namely cardiovascular diseases, cancer, accidents, smoking-related illnesses, and drug and alcohol addiction.

For more information, contact:

Pan American Health Organization
Office of Information and Public Affairs
525 23 rd Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20037
Tel: (202) 974-3459
Fax: (202) 974-3143