Latin America, Caribbean Health Care Faced Challenges, Progress in 2015: PAHO

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Jan 04, 2016 05:18 AM EST

MILL VALLEY, CA - JANUARY 26: In this photo illustration, vials of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine are displayed on a counter at a Walgreens Pharmacy on January 26, 2015 in Mill Valley, California. An outbreak of measles in California has grown to 68 cases with 48 of the cases being linked to people who had visited Disneyland. Nine additional cases have been reported in five states and Mexico. (Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images )

It has been a challenging but progressive year for health across Latin American and Caribbean regions, according to the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), which released its year-end report.

April 2015 was a good month for the Americas as PAHO, in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO), declared the region as the first all over the world to be officially free of the rubella disease. The disease has resulted in the deaths or development of congenital defects among children and young adults, and over 100,000 are affected by the health crisis yearly.

"The declaration made rubella and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) the third and fourth diseases - after small pox and polio - to be eliminated in the Americas region," said PAHO, per St. Lucia News Online.

June 2015 saw Cuba being validated by WHO as the first country to completely eradicate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother-to-child. "Eliminating transmission of a virus is one of the greatest public health achievements possible," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan via a press release. "This is a major victory in our long fight against HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and an important step towards having an AIDS-free generation."

PAHO also reported that health care coverage in the Latin American and Caribbean regions have increased to 46 million since 2000, but it also illuminated the reality that 30 percent of the region's citizens still lack proper access to health care due to poverty or geographic obstacles. PAHO urges concerned officials to come up with better ways to increase public financing that will give priority to health care, including putting more focus on life-threatening diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Despite the progress, the emergence of Zika disease in December 2015 is currently posing a huge health threat to the Americas. This condition has been likened to dengue and chikungunya and there are currently no vaccine and medicines to treat it, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Drinking among Latinos have also doubled in the Americas, thus increasing their risk for obesity-related illnesses, per Fox News. PAHO urges the creation of measures that would restrict alcohol availability, including marketing and promotions, as well as the possibility of raising prices and taxes on alcoholic substances.

The health agency also noted its continued efforts in creating more hospitals in certain Latin American towns, as well as strengthening its partnership with other agencies in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The full report has been outlined in its year-in-review.

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