$150 Million Health Initiative To Help Central America’s Poor

June 18, 2010

The 2015 Mesoamerican Health Initiative, inaugurated Monday, June 14 in Mexico City, will increase access to health services for the region’s poorest sectors, according to the initiative’s website (www.saludmesoamerica2015.org).

The initiative will fund projects initiated by the health ministries of the seven Central American countries of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, as well as nine Mexican states in the southeast of that country, according to the project’s website.

The program is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carlos Slim Institute of Health and the Spanish government, each of which will contribute $50 million.

Mexico’s National Public Health Institute coordinated the needs assessment for the project and drew up the master plan for the regional initiative based on data and input from each country, said Angel Francisco Betanzos, deputy director of the institute’s InfectiousDiseaseResearchCenter.

The initiative’s four priority areas are infant and maternal health, nutrition, vaccinations, and dengue and malaria.

According to the initiative’s website, “programs will be aimed at the poorest 20 percent of the population with special emphasis on women and children under the age of 5.” The initiative will fund projects that “work within the existing national and regional health policies and frameworks, and will use a results-based focus to measure the impacts.”

The Costa Rican coordinator for the initiative, Dr. Nidia Amador of the Health Ministry’s Technical Division for Health Leadership, said the priorities for Costa Rica were determined in four separate needs assessments conducted last year.

Amador said results in the area of nutrition showed that “the needs are not that critical and obesity is of more concern than malnutrition”; that Costa Rica is “very advanced” in terms of maternal health; that in the area of vaccines Costa Rica is “in the vanguard of the region and this year plans to incorporate pneumococcal vaccines and possibly rotavirus vaccines into its mandatory program”; and that in the fourth priority area of the Mesoamerican initiative, “dengue is an ongoing problem that has been reported on in the press.” She also said Costa Rica has played a leadership role in the region in the area of vaccinations.

Amador added that funds from the Mesoamerican initiative are still not available and that “the amount designated for Costa Rica is not known yet.”

–Sophia Klempner

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