Health in the Americas 2022

Potentially Avoidable Premature Mortality in the Context of Health Emergencies and Disasters

Between 2000 and 2020, nearly 14,000 disasters were reported throughout the world, an increase of 44% on the previous two decades. The Region of the Americas was the third-most affected by disasters (after Africa and Asia).

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the magnitude of impact that a health emergency can have on the health sector and the health of populations, and it has tested the effective response capacity of countries throughout the Region. The disruption in the supply of health services because of the pandemic has not only interrupted treatment of medical conditions; it has also reduced screening and early detection of health conditions in many countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has become one of the leading causes of death in the Region, and has triggered a regression of 20 years in progress to reduce avoidable premature deaths, in terms of both preventable and treatable conditions.

Health emergencies and disasters are direct contributors to potentially avoidable premature deaths, as such events and the devastation they cause should be avoidable with a strong response capacity. The response to emergencies and disasters must consider an action framework aimed at equity and must be planned within a framework of universal coverage, one that incorporates preparedness and surveillance actions from a primary health care model.