Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials Previewing the 9th Summit of Americas: Health Systems and Health Security
7:05 P.M. EDT
MODERATOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today. I just wanted to start by setting some ground rules as a reminder that this call is currently under a 5:00 a.m. embargo and you may attribute the contents of the call to a “senior administration official.”
We really — we’ll kick off with a topper and then hopefully just answer some of the questions you might have. We will have a factsheet for you hopefully soon that we’ll share out to this list of everyone who has joined.
And with that, I’ll kick it over to my colleagues to outline the administration’s efforts to invest in the region’s health and prosperity.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great. Thank you, [senior administration official], and thank you all for joining us tonight. My name is [senior administration official].
Tomorrow, President Biden will lead the effort in adapting an “Action Plan on Health and Resilience in the Americas.”
The Action Plan on Health and Resilience in the Americas, which will be fully implemented by 2030, will address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by assessing and identifying gaps and strengthening the capacity and resilience of health systems and health value chains to include the full range of activities that health systems and the people who work at part of those systems help workers do at both national and regional levels.
The plan has a very people-centered approach at the core, given that that’s also in line with the core of our health and resilience policies, and it’s intended to impact and further improve the ability for systems to provide both physical and mental healthcare and also account for the disproportionate impact and — on certain populations that are often vulnerable and marginalized, to include women, youth, the elderly, people of a different gender identities, and people with different disabilities, among others.
Secondly, the U.S. government will work with our partners to strengthen the health workforce by investing in something that’s called the health — the Americas Health Corps. The Americas Health Corps directly complements the administration’s recently launched Global Health Worker Initiative.
The Global Health Worker Initiative, as noted at its launch in mid-May, is intended to serve the framework to guide both the U.S. government’s investments in the health workforce and broader contributions to health systems, as well as provide a frame for the international community.
And the Americas Health Corps is a key example of how those concepts and priorities are being regionalized. The Americas Health Corps will specifically include training for 500,000 health workers in the Latin America and Caribbean region within the next five years.
And it will do this in two main ways. One, is leveraging and expanding existing training programs, which includes decades of investments from the U.S. government, such as through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Field Epidemiology Training program, and also efforts such as the U.S. Agency for International Development’s strengthening midwifery in the Latin America and Caribbean training programs, or what we do through the Peace Corps in training of community health workers.
And secondly, it will support and strengthen PAHO — the Pan American Health Organization’s — training platform as well. So, it really is a way to build off of what we’ve already been doing and bolster the capacity and investments that are done in partnership with PAHO.
Third, the administration, as you hopefully know, remains committed to ending the acute phase of COVID-19 in the region and globally, and to promote recovery in the region, given the devastating human toll that the pandemic has had on our hemisphere specifically.
On May 12th, during the Second Global COVID-19 Summit, hosted by President Biden at the White House, there was over $3.2 billion in new commitments that were received. However, in spite of that, there are still — there’s still a gap in getting 70 percent of the Americas vaccinated and also expanding equitable access to testing and treatments throughout the region.
We, therefore, will continue to work with partners to detect and characterize new variants of COVID-19, including through closer ties with our partners in the region such as PAHO, the Caribbean Public Health Agency, and chief medical officers of countries in the region with the goal of saving lives.
And then, lastly, I wanted to note that the United States will look to strengthen global health security throughout the Americas. We’re looking to expand the number of CDC experts at the CDC’s regional office, as well as expand USAID’s Global Health Security programs to seven countries, as requested by — in the President’s budget. And also to diversify public health supply chains in the region through both bilateral and regional engagements.
We, as the administration, remain committed to advancing pandemic response and global health security while, in parallel, looking to bolster the resilience of health systems that serve as the backbone. And that’s intended to be reflected in the additional activities that we’re planning for the Americas this year and into the future — again, as reflected in the President’s budget.
Lastly, I’ll just note that all of these activities are intended to both support the acute response to the current phase of COVID, as well as other health needs, but also better prepare health systems to — in the region — to withstand shocks that might come, which could include preventing and detecting outbreaks earlier, but also ensuring continuity of health services for all components of countries on all populations.
With that, we’ll be happy to take questions. But before doing so, I want to turn it over to my colleague, [senior administration official], who will talk a little bit more about Secretary Becerra’s engagements tomorrow as well and the next couple days.
So, [senior administration official], over to you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks a lot, [senior administration official]. And good evening, everyone. [Senior administration official] really covered a lot of ground in her opening remarks.
I will just say that the Secretary will be announcing these initiatives as part of the Americas Summit, starting tomorrow at a CEO panel here.
So, as has been mentioned, this is all under embargo until that time, but you will be hearing more from him related to the various events taking place this week.
In addition to the Americas Health Corps announcement — or Fuerza de Salud — we’re also going to announce a new partnership with Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol. It’s a FIFA partnership around building confidence mainly around vaccine confidence, but, even broadly, it’s meant to, again, partner with our partners in the region on such public health initiatives so that we can continue to build on, as [senior administration official] was saying, the decades of programs and outreach that we have had on the ground.
Just for awareness, the CDC has been operating in the region for decades, and this includes both Latin America and the Caribbean. And so, it’s really quite encouraging to see that we’re able to build on not just that longstanding outreach but, as [senior administration official] was saying, ongoing work in epidemiology and also just frontline health services.
But in addition to our CDC, we also have offices of our FDA, as well as staff from our NIH, also in region. And so, we’re really covering the ground, from research through programs and health services, as she mentioned.
I think it’s also important to highlight a couple of other areas. One is our emphasis as well on partnerships between health ministers and finance ministers. This is something that we have been focused on across the U.S. government at a global level. But regionally, we recognize the importance of solidifying those relationships as well, particularly in light of the COVID pandemic and recognizing the need to work across various sectors if we are to be successful in ending the acute phase of the pandemic. And we can’t forget that we are still in a pandemic and — across the Americas region.
And so, as [senior administration official] was saying, these programs will work towards that end but also be designed so that these health systems can sort of live beyond the current crisis.
Finally, I will say that beyond COVID, the Secretary will be speaking to a couple of other priorities for us and for the region. One is around the intersection of climate and health, recognizing that it’s critically important to target, again, not just what we might narrowly define as traditional health priorities but broadly look at the sort of intersection of these issues — whether we’re talking about one health, or the intersection of human health and environmental health and animal health, or even looking at issues like noncommunicable diseases, which can be greatly affected by climate change.
And then, finally, he also will be speaking to the importance of equity and using an equity lens as part of our work and work across the region — whether we’re talking about Indigenous communities or looking at, as [senior administration official] I believe also mentioned, the gender lens and gender equity explicitly.
So, with that, I’m happy to turn it back to our moderator again to take a few questions on what we are covering this week. But thanks again for your time this evening.
Q Hi, everybody. Could you talk about exactly when and where this is going to be announced tomorrow by the President? What — what’s the setting going to be for that?
And also, I just want to make sure I understood. You said there’s going to be — the goal is to have 500,000 new health workers across Latin America in five years? Did I get that right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. It is 500,000 health workers over the next five years. And I’ll let [senior administration official] and colleagues from our press team confirm the announcement details.
Q Okay. Then just one last question then. Where does the money come for this training for these health workers? It this new money or just existing programs?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, sorry, I was on mute. I apologize for that.
Q That’s okay. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sorry about that. So this looks at — this is leveraging existing programs and then — and in addition to a new investment with PAHO.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And, [senior administration official], I don’t know if you can outline Secretary Becerra’s event tomorrow where this will be outlined.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. Yeah, no problem. That — he will be speaking at the CE- — (sirens are heard in the background) — I’m sorry, there’s, of course, background noise here in Los Angeles.
He will be speaking at the CEO summit plenary session here. It’s an event happening on the margins of the Summit of the Americas, and it’s a panel discussion explicitly on sort of creating thriving economies and using the health lens to do so.
He’ll be joined by a couple of other panelists, but that is his opportunity — his first speaking engagement and an opportunity for him to further outline, as [senior administration official] has already mentioned, the new Americas Health Corps program, as well as some of the other areas that I mentioned, such as how we’re looking to strengthen partnerships between health ministries and finance ministers.
Q Thank you very much. My question is also about money. Do you have — are you able to attach a dollar figure to any of these programs — both the first thing that you mentioned with regard to the Action Plan and then, secondly, for the training? I know you answered the previous question by saying you’re leveraging existing programs in addition to some additional funds. Can you just tell us what the —
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure.
Q — what the dollar figure is for these? Thanks very much.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. I’m happy to. And as I mentioned, it’s a — it’s a partnership. So the Americas Health Corps, which is what I’ll detail, is intended to be a collaborative investment that would, in total, be around $100 million directly focused on, as I mentioned, 500,000 health workers over the course of five years.
So, one note is that the 500,000 health workers would include medical professionals and clinicians, community health workers, public health professionals, and health science professionals. So it’s intended to be a robust definition.
The U.S. government, PAHO, and then countries that — from the region that are participating are essentially kind of working in partnership to leverage together the collaborative investment of $100,000 [sic]. So that does not mean — I’m sorry, $100 million. So that does not mean $100 million is solely from the U.S. government.
So we would have to come back to you with the specific breakdown of kind of how much each (inaudible) is putting together, but it’s intended to be a way of bringing together different investments to leverage towards some common goals.
If helpful, I can also talk about what some of the trainings would focus on. But I did want to underscore the multidisciplinary aspect of how we’re defining health workers for the investments. And that intention (inaudible) look at all aspects of the health system.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And as far as the other partnerships, look, the Fútbol partnership, for example, is really meant to work through our existing platforms and partnerships. So, we are not dedicating additional funding for that currently; it’s more a matter of kind of realigning that work and leveraging the existing relationships with some of these institutions to amplify and further advance those efforts.
When it comes to the policy-level work, that really is happening in those policy forums or circles — again, sort of the regional bodies that exist for those dialogues, as well as some of the ongoing global discussions around how to find better synergy across sectors when it comes to responding to global health emergencies.
Hopefully, that answers your question.
Q Hi, thanks for having this call. I was just wondering if there any concrete plans for building out these health systems outside of the 500,000 health workers that have been mentioned. I know that there’s a framing as of this “one health” and including these environmental aspects. And I’m just wondering: Outside of the health workers, what else is included in concrete plans at this point?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. I’m happy to take that, so — and then we’ll pass to [senior administration official] for additional.
So, as [senior administration official] and I have both mentioned, you know, we have a strong interest of leveraging and building off of existing investments from the U.S. government. And that includes through the President’s fiscal year request — budget request — requested increased resources for the U.S. CDC, as well as for USAID, which would be intended to expand a couple of things.
One would be to expand what we do in terms of The Field Epidemiology Training program, which directly supports some of our health security in particular.
The second would be to expand regional offices, which would allow for more of a multidisciplinary approach — which we do in our health programs, but essentially, to expand the scope of different areas of health as well as the geographic ways — locations that we, as the U.S. government, partner with those governments.
And then lastly, potentially supporting, through — if Congress were to meet the President’s budget request, expansion at the community-health level — which would be intended to, again, be multidisciplinary, particularly gets into maternal and child care services, through agencies such as USAID and the Peace Corps.
[Senior administration official], I don’t know if you want to comment further on some of the scope of what we would be looking at.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, absolutely. In addition to building on the — or utilizing the Field Epidemiology Training program, we’re also building on the Global Laboratory Leadership program, which is also a partnership with CDC and other agencies.
And so, we’re hopeful that between those two, those will sort of help build out the workforce, again, beyond frontline health workers or community health workers, but really looking at even those who are — were more behind the scenes but really critical to outbreak response and other public health needs.
I think it’s also important to highlight that these initiatives also leave room to engage with industry or the private sector. It’s one of the reasons why the Secretary is making this announcement at the CEO Summit. And given the engagement of private sector in the region, it behooves us to really think about these public-private partnerships or these opportunities to work across sectors.
And then finally, I’ll just say that there are active or ongoing initiatives most recently tied to COVID, such as the Global VAX Initiative and other efforts to ensure we’re getting shots in arms and otherwise reaching people with essential innovations that are that are sort of concrete programs that are ongoing and that can be expanded or extended as a result of these partnerships and additional work.
Q Thank you so much for doing this. Just a quick programming note. If you — this is the third call in a row that is going at the same time as the Vice President’s events here in LA. And so, to the extent that you could help those of us out in the pool with the VP by not scheduling the calls at the same time as the highest-ranking principal currently at with Summit, that would be really helpful to us in terms of covering it.
That said, about the 500,000 workers: Are these 500,000 existing workers who are being trained in new skills? Or are these 500,000 people who are currently not health workers who will be? And can you tell us a little bit more about what kind of health workers? Are these primary care? What breakdown are they? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. So, the primary focus is on upskill — so kind of giving more advanced skills to existing health workers, which, again, are intended to reflect both on the research side, the service provision side, as well as, to some degree, public health administration. So looking at all components of the health system.
It’s possible that some of the health workers are new, but the vast majority would be looking at directly supporting advanced or accelerated pathways to (inaudible) what we would call “upskill.”
And then in terms of the model for how it works — so I had mentioned, you know, it’s envisioned to kind of have topline investment that we would look in a phased incremental approach in working with countries and with PAHO, as well as other donors, to support and build out the vision of the Health Corps.
So, for the starting point, PAHO would contribute I believe it’s up to $2 million for the first year to spearhead some initial collaboration with the United States, looking at the framing and governance body and components that would help strategically guide the way that the additional components of the funding requirements would come together to support an expanded health workforce.
So, it really is — is looking at kind of helping propel existing health workers in all aspects of the health workforce to have more tailored skills that allow them to not just, frankly, contribute to the health system, but also can really, we believe, support economic recovery of the region, given that healthier communities result in people who can and individuals who can contribute more to their communities.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you so much, everyone.
This is [Moderator], with White House Comms. Noted on scheduling.
But we will be sure to send out the embargoed factsheet shortly after we wrap this call and just wanted to send a reminder to everyone that the materials of this call is under embargo until 5:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Talk soon. Thanks so much.
7:28 P.M EDT