The Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), recently ran a workshop in Guatemala entitled Building Capacities to Respond to Epidemics and Pandemics in Latin America and the Caribbean. The aim of the workshop, held on 20 and 21 April at the Spanish Cooperation Training Centre in Antigua, was to strengthen health systems by building regional capacities to address disease outbreaks. The workshop was designed for regional authorities, managers and other staff with the capacity and power to make decisions in the health policy dialogue.
The impetus for this workshop was the international community's slow response to the most recent international public health emergency—the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa. The workshop was conceived as a venue for reflection and the sharing of experiences. By identifying challenges and coordinating the efforts of multiple agents, the participants laid the foundation for an effective regional response to future epidemics and pandemics.
The workshop started with an overview of the existing international alert and response mechanisms. Afterwards, participants discussed their experiences in the region's public health activities. Finally, the strengths and weaknesses of the regional response to disease outbreaks were identified and the hurdles to appropriate action were analysed.
Leire Pajín, Director of International Development at ISGlobal, commented on the workshop: "This gathering marks the start of a dialogue between governments, civil society organisations, and research centres like ISGlobal, the United Nations Development Programme and the Pan American Health Organization about how to improve the region's response to disease outbreaks. We must learn from experiences with the flu and Ebola, incorporate the lessons learned, and better prepare ourselves for the future."