GENEVA, Switzerland – Dominican Dr Carissa Etienne, who was re-elected to serve a second term as Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) last September, has now also been appointed for a second term as Regional Director for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO). She begins her second five-year terms in both positions on February 1.

“My vision for the Americas is of a society free from inequality where everyone, particularly the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people, can lead healthy, meaningful and productive lives,” said Dr Etienne after her appointment during the WHO Executive Board’s 142nd session in Geneva this week.

“One of my top priorities is ensuring that everyone has access to quality health services without fear of being impoverished.”

Under her leadership over the last five years, PAHO has led preparedness and response efforts to the regional Zika and chikungunya epidemics, as well as to yellow fever outbreaks in Brazil.

The Americas became the first WHO region to eliminate the endemic transmission of measles, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome. Four of the six endemic countries in the region eliminated onchocerciasis, and trachoma in one country, while a number of countries are much closer to malaria elimination certification. Seven countries and territories achieved dual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis.

Advances have also been made in the strengthening of national health systems and services and in progress towards universal health. Efforts to prevent and control non-communicable diseases gained considerable traction as more countries enacted legislation on the labelling of food products, and others have introduced taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages at the national level, PAHO said.

Prior to her appointment as WHO’s Regional Director for the Americas, Dr Etienne was Assistant Director General, Health Systems and Services, of WHO in Geneva. From 2003 to 2008 she served as Assistant Director of PAHO, WHO’s Regional Office for the Americas.