A Better Healthcare Future for the Americas: Ensuring Sustainable Healthcare Systems

A panel of experts discussed the current challenges to healthcare systems in the Americas and the possible ways toward ensuring sustainability in building a better healthcare future for the region.


  • Dr. James Fitzgerald, Director, Health Systems and Services, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)
  • Tom Eveson, Director, Sustainable Finance Solutions and ESG for the Americas, Sustainalytics
  • Dr. Javier Guzmán, Director of Global Health Policy, Center for Global Development
  • Steve Liston, Senior Director, Council of the Americas (moderator)

In the wake of Covid-19, the current healthcare situation in Latin America faces challenges to coordination, accessibility, and financing. However, these issues are “the result of longstanding deficiencies in health systems pre-pandemic,” according to Dr. James Fitzgerald of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) at an AS/COA Healthcare Series event. “The most notable issues that have contributed to the challenges faced by countries includes segmentation and fragmentation of health system … basically the high proliferation and poor coordination of subsystems within the health systems,” said Dr. Fitzgerald. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated these discontinuities which directly affected the region’s ability to deliver health services to populations in need. As a result, disadvantaged groups were “disproportionately impacted through higher Covid-19 infection rates, worse Covid-19 severity, lack of access to treatment resulting in higher Covid-19 mortality rates,” said Dr. Fitzgerald.

Underpinning these issues is the lack of financing for health services. “There has been underinvestment … that basically creates vulnerability and a very dysfunctional system to face something as big as the pandemic,” said Dr. Javier Guzmán of the Center for Global Development. Covid-19 surmounted an incredible strain on economies especially in Latin America. That’s why, to Dr. Guzmán, it’s important for money to be spent in an “efficient, transparent, and inclusive way.” Tom Eveson of Sustainalytics, discussed sustainable financing as a way to accomplish this. Eveson said the main goal of sustainable financing of healthcare through social and sustainability-linked bonds is to increase “access to essential services and affordable healthcare.”

Overcoming these challenges in healthcare systems is critical for the region’s recovery from Covid-19 and its long-term preparedness for new health challenges and opportunities. Latin American countries are quickly adopting new health technologies and medicines to expand health system capacity and resources. Assessing the value of these innovations, according to Dr. Guzmán, is essential in procurement “to get health outcomes in the best possible way with limited investments.” The path to a better healthcare future involves increasing investment to primary care to improve accessibility, improving capacity of management to reduce segmentation, focusing on resiliency and sustainability to propel recovery, and increasing public-private partnerships. Because as Dr. Guzmán said, “Health is not an expense; it’s an investment.”