Lessons from the COVID 19 Pandemic for Building Resilient Health Systems in Latin America and the Caribbean December 2022

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Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic for Building Resilient Health Systems in Latin America and the Caribbean (December 2022)

Due to COVID-19, the region saw one of the highest rates of excess mortality and deaths worldwide. Broader health reforms can be sparked by the pandemic’s lessons.

January 24, 2023, Santiago, Chile – According to a recent World Bank report titled “Building Resilient Health Systems in Latin America and the Caribbean: Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” strengthening health systems in Latin America and the Caribbean must be a top priority. Building resilience against potential pandemics can be accomplished by making investments in cost-effective interventions like primary healthcare that performs well and improved public health surveillance systems. Additionally, more funding is required to address COVID-19-related strains on health care services, such as mental health services, and to provide the conditions for improved economic and human development.

Juan Pablo Uribe

Juan Pablo Uribe, Global Director for Health, Nutrition, and Population at the World Bank, stated that “the pandemic has proved that health systems need to be well supported and equipped to deal with shocks and surges.” The expansion of telemedicine and telehealth services, increased data use in decision-making, and new public-private partnerships that have increased access to care during pandemic peaks are just a few of the effective and innovative strategies that many Latin American and Caribbean nations have developed. These innovations have the potential to spark and drive more comprehensive, long-lasting reforms for increased health system resilience.

Despite advancements in medical care over the previous 30 years, the Covid-19 pandemic struck a region with numerous systemic problems. Compared to the average for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the majority of healthcare systems in LAC underperform (OECD). Healthcare fragmentation is a major cause of waste in the area, as it results in work duplication, significantly lowers system effectiveness, and exacerbates inequities. Even if it has increased recently, on average, health expenditures still still accounts for 25% of per-capita spending in OECD nations.

Due to underinvestment in public health before to the pandemic, health systems in LAC were woefully unprepared, which made it difficult for countries to respond to shocks and spikes in demand. Due to COVID-19, the region has had some of the highest global rates of deaths and excess mortality, and the pandemic has significantly increased the prevalence of mental health issues.

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The publication was introduced at a meeting of regional health and finance ministers, senior government officials, and representatives of international organisations to discuss the difficulties facing health systems in the wake of the pandemic, which was sponsored by the Government of Chile and the World Bank. The event finished in a joint statement emphasising the value of bolstering Latin America and the Caribbean’s robust health systems and mental health in order to boost human capital and the economy.

Mental Health

We are working on three strategic lines for this period: reducing waiting times; Mental Health, which has gotten worse especially with the pandemic; and moving towards the reform of a Universal Health system that recognises universal primary care as a central element, with a community approach, of favouring care and access through partnerships. “For Chile, it is very relevant to host this meeting, which is in line with President Gabriel Boric’s government in health.

The World Bank has increased its financial assistance to the region’s health sector by double since the beginning of the pandemic. The Health, Nutrition, and Population (HNP) portfolio of the World Bank in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) totals US$ 3.9 billion in commitments (29 operations), of which US$2.3 billion (18 operations) are explicitly intended to improve the resilience of health systems in the area. With planned investments in primary healthcare, telemedicine, and health information and surveillance systems, the World Bank is supporting new lending operations in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras. These initiatives are anticipated to help the countries’ health systems better prepare for future shocks, such as those caused by climate change.

Daniel Harrison

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