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WCPH 2020 Blog

Latin Americans at the 16th WCPH

  Programme related - Luis Eugenio de Souza - 2 Apr 2020 9:00 CET

The World Congress on Public Health (WCPH), which reaches its 16th edition in 2020, has been a rich space for exchange between public health researchers, policy makers, health professionals, and representatives of civil society. At the Congress, important topics are discussed, deepening the understanding of public health issues in order to strengthen collective action in favour of the universal right to health, equity and social justice.

In our globalized world, developing and sharing a global perspective on Public Health is essential to understand the social reality and to become a historical agent capable of influencing the course of events.

To be able to develop this global perspective, becoming a relevant political actor, is even more important for public health community in Latin America, given that the people here carry a colonial heritage that, if it gave us access to rich European cultures, also left the marks of genocide of indigenous populations and of slavery. The extreme social inequality that still characterizes our societies is, in part, a consequence of this past.

Participation in the World Congress on Public Health is an opportunity to contribute to the construction of this global perspective, based on the values of equality and justice. In fact, this has been the commitment of participants in the congresses of the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA), as attested by this excerpt from the final declaration of the 15th WCPH held in Melbourne, Australia, 2017:

It is the role of public health professionals and their organizations to contribute to:  improving health outcomes for all and fighting inequity as the primary driver of poor health, with particular emphasis on women, children, Indigenous peoples as well as poor and marginalized communities, demanding political, social, environmental and economic change across all sectors for better and more sustainable health.

The 16th WCPH will undoubtedly be another good opportunity to advance the public health community's struggle for health for all and social justice. If, therefore, participating in the 16th WCPH is always interesting, the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic made participation necessary. In a few epochs in history, the relevance of public health was as clear as it is now; not for specialists, but for the population of the whole world.

As a consequence, the current pandemic has made the central themes of the Congress more opportune, starting with the question of the relevance of action informed by reason and science. Combating Covid-19 requires recognizing that health policies must be formulated based on scientific knowledge. Several heads of government who used to attack science, promoting obscurantism, if they have not backed down, are isolating themselves politically.

As urgent as the pandemic is, but perhaps more serious, given the insufficiency of counter-actions, the climate emergency is another central theme of the 16th WCPH. This is a topic of particular interest to Latin America, whose society seems less aware of the catastrophic effects - already underway - of climate change.

In addition, the 16th WCPH will have several sessions dedicated to discussing strategies that the public health community can develop to tackle these issues: formation of leaders and agents of change, democratization of digital technology, quality and sustainability health systems, interdisciplinarity and intersectoriality.

Latin American participants will have a lot to learn, but also a lot to teach. Our universities and research centres, healthcare institutions, and community organizations have produced knowledge and accumulated experiences that will enrich the discussions at the 16th World Congress on Public Health. Latin Americans will not miss this opportunity!

Luis Eugenio de Souza, MD, PhD
Brazilian Association of Collective Health - Abrasco



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