New PAHO Director: Ending the COVID-19 Pandemic and Building Resilient Health Key Priorities – PAHO/WHO

Washington DC 31 January 2023 – Dr. Jarbas Barbosa was sworn in today as the new director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), pledging to work in partnership with member states to end the pandemic and strengthen the region’s health systems. First. He will assume office on 1 February 2023.

“Countries in the Americas are facing a complex epidemiological landscape, the persistence of infectious diseases, the risk of outbreaks and epidemics, the rise of non-communicable diseases, damage from traffic accidents and violence, and the effects of climate change,” said Dr. Barbossa said. “We need strong, resilient health systems that can adequately perform all essential public health functions.”

Former Assistant Director of PAHO Dr. Barbosa was sworn in at a ceremony at the Organization of American States (OAS). PAHO is the International Health Agency specialized in the Inter-American System and the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr. Dr. Barbosa, a citizen of Brazil, from Dominica. Carissa F. Etienne’s successor.

To address “significant disparities between and within countries” and ensure post-pandemic recovery and preparedness, Dr. Barbosa’s tenure will focus on five strategic pillars:

  • End the epidemic with the tools countries have at hand, including surveillance and vaccines
  • Apply lessons learned from pandemics to prepare for future health emergencies
  • Guarantee rapid and equal access to health innovations for all countries in the region
  • Build resilient national health systems based on primary health care
  • Strengthen PAHO’s capacity to assist Member States.

“I will work tirelessly,” Barbosa said, “to ensure that PAHO maintains its many achievements to date, renewing itself at every step, always building networks and acting as a bridge of understanding, unity and innovation.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of global health to both people and heads of state like never before, Barbosa said.

“We need to use this focus to strengthen health systems, address persistent problems and weaknesses, and ensure the right to health for all people in our region,” he added.

“One hundred and twenty years ago, our countries proposed an alliance to improve the health of our people and to face disasters and epidemics together,” Dr Barbosa said.

“The dream of Pan-Americanism. The dream that unity among the countries of the Americas is a powerful force that can improve the lives of our people.”

“We stand here today, 120 years later, encouraged by many of these dreams, many of which remain alive and continue to inspire us.”


Carissa F. Etienne, outgoing director of PAHO

“As I hand over this office and hand over the steering wheel to my esteemed friend and colleague, Zarbas, I am confident that you will bring to your new role exceptional technical expertise, astute policy because the future of the organization will be in good hands. Many achievements in your country Brazil and internationally Building skills with practicality and wisdom from years of experience.

Nicia Trindade Lima, Brazil’s Minister of Health

[Dr. Barbosa] Also a thinker and builder, transforming ideas into sustainable intuitive practices. During his extensive career, he has worn many hats at various levels within a single health system. As a public health expert, he always fought to defend the principles of Brazilian health reform and to work for an inclusive and united society where health is a universal right.”

Javier Becerra, United States Secretary of Health and Human Services

“Created by necessity, hardened by crisis, and sustained by brotherhood, for more than 100 years, PAHO has tested and risen to meet every challenge in its path.”

“Dr. Barbosa, you have a great job leading this institution during a particularly challenging time. We must put into practice all that we have learned from COVID-19, while also recognizing that the next health emergency could lurk in the shadows and emerge at any time.”

Molvin Joseph, Minister of Health, Welfare and Environment of Antigua and Barbuda

“Today, Dr. Zarbas, you begin the task of continuing the good work of a long line of leaders who have helped America’s nations over the past 120 years. You now have the opportunity to chart your own path and destiny as you lead us into the post-pandemic era with its many ongoing challenges. Your I have no doubt that experience, technical knowledge and passion for what public health can offer will help you reach your goal of building a better, more equitable world with universal health.”

Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS

“You are assuming the leadership of PAHO at a critical juncture for the hemisphere, a moment when the lessons learned from COVID-19 must be applied in the region and globally so that we can deal with similar situations in the future. The best possible way.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“You start as regional director at a difficult time – with rising inflation and debt, squeezed budgets, and divisive politics and war. Yet, you start at an important time, when the world is emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic, and we are meeting triple billion targets. And we seek to begin progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Carlyle de Macedo, Director Emeritus of PAHO

“Dr. Zarbas Barbosa has all the qualities to be an excellent director and carry out his mission with great effectiveness. His technical ability has demonstrated all the qualities and characteristics of a leader through his varied and successful professional experience.”

Sir George Allen, Director Emeritus of PAHO

“Being director of the Pan American Health Organization is an almost sacred trust, but I am fully confident that you will discharge that trust with honor and benefit to the health of the people of America.”

Myrtle Roses, Director Emeritus of PAHO

“From the beginning of his career, [Dr. Jarbas Barbosa] Demonstrated an open and reflective attitude, willingness to listen, compromise and implement decisions. He has capacity and experience in political and institutional management, and extensive knowledge of PAHO and WHO, international cooperation and partners and collaborators, as well as countries, communities and civil society organizations in the region.”

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