Daniel Maceira – HSG Board Treasurer, Chair of the HSG Regional Expansion Working Group and HSG Board Representative for The Americas – shares his reflections following the latest series of pre-conferences in the Americas which take place advance of the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research.
Over the past four years, I have organized, in collaboration with HSG members and partners, about 20 pre-conferences throughout the Americas – from Ottawa and Washington D.C. to Buenos Aires and Montevideo, from Mexico, Bogotá and Lima to São Paulo. At each event, the meeting replicated the model of the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, with calls for abstracts and scientific committee members selecting authors to share their work before open audiences.
In the cases of Central America and the Caribbean, we were able to create — in conjunction with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) — sub-regional events held at the University of Costa Rica in San José and at the University of West Indies at St. Augustine, Trinidad & Tobago, to evidence the wealth of academic and policy work across the region.
More than 500 abstracts were received and over 60 institutions formed part of the journey. From IDRC and the Canadian Society for International Health to the Economics Department of the University of Buenos Aires, from the Uruguayan Ministry of Health to the Peruvian National Health Insurance, from the Institute of Public Health in São Paulo to the Universidad Javeriana in Colombia and the National Autonomous University in Mexico. Alongside these were the likes of Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University, and the World Bank.
The initiative has allowed me to engage in collaborative activities with many institutions across the Americas, enhanced knowledge of the key topics researched in the region in recent years, and further reinforced to me that the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region has significant contributions to make to the global health debate, including:
- Highly segmented health care systems based on an uneven income distribution that crystallize health equity gaps — a pattern found in many of the region’s countries and within each of them at the sub-national level.
- During the last twenty-five years, LAC has been a laboratory for health care reforms, which means it has valuable experiences to share. Decentralization, social insurance schemes, performance-based financing, public-private partnerships have been part of health care reforms in Latin America.
We have learned a lot, and we have lots to share with the rest of the world, particularly with developing countries.
Relatively low participation of researchers and policymakers from Latin America and the Caribbean in international academic fora — probably due to lack of funding to attend conferences abroad, as well as language barriers — do not allow this exchange of experiences to take place.
An additional effort must be made to communicate these valuable experiences beyond the region, but also to bring their enriching contribution to debates on the national level.
The memoirs of these events have been uploaded to our website, where you can peruse the topics discussed, the authors who presented works, and see some photos of each event. We have started a Google Group for members enrolled in these pre-conferences (you are invited to join this group), and there is an ongoing call for papers to be published in an issue of the International Journal for Equity in Health to be dedicated to disparities in Latin American health care systems.