Occupational health

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Meeting of the Regional Network of PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centres for Occupational Health (CCs)

October 24th-26th 2011, Durham, North Carolina USA.

Dr J. Rodríguez-Guzmán (rodriguezj@paho.org,)
Regional Advisor in Workers’ Health for the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO)

Last autumn, PAHO organized the Sustainable Development and Environment (SDE) Collaborating Centers biannual meeting at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences NIEHS in North Carolina. Its purpose was to establish the Regional Action Plan for the next biennium for SDE including Workers’ Health. Activities planned were aligned within the SDE PAHO’s Strategic Plan 2008-2012; the Regional Plan of Workers’ Health approved in 1999 by PAHO’s Directive Council; and the WHO Global Plan of Action approved by the WHA in 2008 and carried out by the WHO Network of Collaborating Centers in Occupational Health (CCs). A particular effort was put to strengthen workers’ health within the framework of sustainable development, considering that the 468 million workers of the region is a main driver (productive unit) for assuring social and economic development and wellbeing for the populations of the region.

The activities carried out during the meeting focused on evaluating the achievements of 2010-2011, and preparing those to be carried out during 2012-2013. Virtual and active participation during the plenary sessions of the CCs allowed this goal to be successfully met. The power of strategic alliances and joint efforts demonstrated their effectiveness to improve regionally the health of healthcare workers, the advances in the eradication of silicosis, the control of viral infections in healthcare settings, the prevention of occupational cancers, the implementation of national OH Plans, the value of training and education programs, as well as the advances of research on nanoparticles, climate change and social inequities in labour and work, within many other projects. Ten of the fifteen CCs, and three of the seven candidate institutions to become CCs participated in a workshop to determine the core collaborative activities in occupational health, including the green economy. Fruitful participation and contributions also allowed to strengthening the horizontal regional collaboration.

As a result, the Regional Action Plan 2012-2013 includes a set of agreed priorities, all aligned with the Global Plan of Action of the WHO CC Network. Many of the successful projects mentioned before are expected to continue and innovate to broaden their scope, and other new and challenging ones arose to improve workers’ health and wellbeing along and across the region. These dimensions of sustainable development should also be understood as interactive and intrinsically linked. In addition, new collaborating activities with NIEHS to strengthen the Green Economy/Green Jobs were agreed aiming to position workers’ health as a key actor for sustainable development within the scope of the coming Rio +20 agenda.

Integration of the Social, Economic, and Environmental pillars, highlighting Health at the center

Based on the political declaration resulting from WHO’s World Conference on the Social Determinants of Health (SDH) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, public health and sustainable development are expected to be strengthened. The Declaration establishes an important link to the work developed in our Region, recognizing the importance of developing policies to achieve both sustainable development and health equity through action on the SDH. In order to advance the field of sustainable development and health in the Region, a new paradigm for fully integrating health, as an intrinsic part of social, environmental, and economic processes, is being raised (see Figure 1). In this context, considering that our workforce is the fundamental platform of regional productivity, PAHO is committed to further lead and sustain efforts to have a healthy and productive workforce.

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