Online Event: Latin America’s Lagging Economies and Setting Priorities for Health Investment


Event Summary This event has passed.

With countries in the Americas reporting continued disruptions in essential primary health care services, additional investments are urgently needed to improve health systems that have been weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Carissa Etienne, the director of the Pan American Health Organization.

Etienne has called for the region’s governments to increase public expenditures in their health systems to at least 6 percent of national GDP and ensure that 30 percent of this funding is directed to first-level care.

Achieving this goal will be a tough challenge, however. The economic recovery that got underway in the region last year has started to stall. Recently the International Monetary Fund said that Latin American regional growth will slow to 2.4 percent this year, a downgrade from its October forecast of 3 percent. That trend has been exacerbated by rising consumer prices, with inflation up more than 8 percent on average in the region.

In the context of shrinking fiscal space, governments confront difficult choices and spending decisions. And with new technologies and competing demands from other sectors, it remains unclear whether the region’s countries will be able to prioritize health spending, and how they can achieve the biggest return on their investments in health.

The Inter-American Dialogue’s Corporate Program is pleased to convene a panel of experts to explore the challenges and opportunities related to the region’s economic recovery with a focus on healthcare investments in the coming period. On March 24, our panel will discuss the following questions, among others:  

  • Has the Covid-19 pandemic, now in its third year, shifted the public perception of healthcare in the region from one of an expenditure to an investment in economic resilience and growth?
  • What have been some of the economic consequences of not investing enough in health systems, and what spending decisions should be prioritized now in order to prepare for future pandemics and speed economic recovery?
  • What are some examples of ways governments in the region have found to innovate throughout the pandemic in terms of healthcare system improvements that will endure beyond the crisis?
  • In what ways has diagnostics and data been leveraged for more efficient delivery of care and better health outcomes? What obstacles stand in the way and how can they be most effectively addressed?
  • What examples of public-private collaboration should be extended beyond the pandemic in order to bolster the region’s economic recovery at faster rates?

Four outstanding experts have agreed to lead off the discussion: Yajaira Bastardo of the Central University of Venezuela, Javier Guzman with the Center for Global Development, Uruguayan Health Minister Daniel Salinas, and Roche’s Antonio Vergara

We invite participants to submit questions using the Q&A function in Zoom or to email questions to Follow the event on Twitter at #HealthInvestmentsLAC and @The_Dialogue. This event will be held in English and Spanish and simultaneous interpretation will be available.

Watch live here.



Michael Shifter

President, Inter-American Dialogue (@MichaelShifter)


Yajaira Bastardo

Professor of Pharmacoeconomics and Pharmacy Administration, Central University of Venezuela in Caracas

Javier Guzman

Director, Global Health Policy Program and Senior Policy Fellow, Center for Global Development (@JavierHGuzmanC)

Daniel Salinas

Uruguay’s Health Minister (@DrDanielSalinas)

Antonio Vergara

President and Head of Diagnostics, Roche Latin America


Arachu Castro

Samuel Z. Stone Chair of Public Health in Latin America, Tulane University (@ArachuCastro)


Press Coverage: 

LatAm’s health infrastructure shown to lag during COVID-19 (BNAmericas)

Related Links