Raquel is a Union member and the new Latin America President. Her career has focused on the genomic epidemiology of tuberculosis and currently works at Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, in Mexico.
During the week of World Lung Day, we learn more about Raquel and her motivation to become the Union Latin America President.
Why did you want to become the Union Latin America President?
"I wanted to become the Union Latin America President because I am deeply passionate about positively impacting public health in our region. Tuberculosis is a significant public health issue that affects many lives, and by leading this organisation, I can contribute to the efforts to combat this disease effectively.”
What do you hope to achieve as Latin America President?
“I am committed to raising awareness about tuberculosis, advocating for better healthcare policies, and fostering collaboration among healthcare professionals, researchers, and organisations throughout Latin America.
“Through my leadership, I aim to reduce the burden of tuberculosis in our communities and improve the quality of life for those affected by this disease.
“I am excited about the opportunity to work with dedicated individuals and organisations in the fight against tuberculosis. I am confident that together, we can achieve meaningful progress in the years to come."
The theme of this year’s World Lung Day is ‘Access to Prevention and Treatment for All’. What would you say the key challenges to access are in Latin America and how can we overcome them?
“The key challenges to access in Latin America encompass a range of factors, including active screening, budget constraints, and social determinants. In a region where poverty, malnutrition, and migration are pervasive issues, addressing these challenges is crucial for improving access to essential services and opportunities for all.”
Raquel expanded on these points for us:
Screening for active tuberculosis
Screening for active tuberculosis is vital to healthcare and social services, especially during health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in Latin America, there are several challenges associated with active screening:
- Infrastructure: Many regions need more healthcare infrastructure for efficient and widespread testing and screening.
- Awareness: There is often a need for more attention or understanding among the population regarding the importance of screening, leading to low participation rates.
- Trust: Mistrust in government institutions and healthcare systems can deter individuals from participating in active screening efforts.
Overcoming screening for active tuberculosis challenges
- Investment in Infrastructure: Governments and international organisations should invest in healthcare infrastructure to expand testing and screening capabilities.
- Community engagement: Public awareness campaigns and community engagement initiatives can educate the population about the importance of active screening.
- Trust-building measures: Establishing trust through transparent communication and ensuring data privacy can encourage more people to participate in screening programs.
More budgets are needed to ensure the government can provide essential services, including healthcare and education. Budget constraints contribute to disparities in access to these services, especially in marginalised communities.
Overcoming budget constraints
- Resource allocation: Governments should prioritise healthcare, education, and social services funding to ensure equitable access.
- Efficiency and accountability: Streamlining government processes, reducing corruption, and ensuring budget transparency can maximise the impact of available resources.
- International aid and cooperation: Latin American countries can collaborate with international organisations and neighbouring nations to secure additional funding and support for critical services.
Poverty, malnutrition, and migration are interconnected social determinants significantly impacting Latin America's access to opportunities and resources.
- Poverty: Poverty limits Latin American countries' access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities.
- Malnutrition: Malnourished individuals are more susceptible to health issues, hindering their overall well-being.
- Migration: Displacement due to economic hardships or violence disrupts access to stable living conditions and essential services.
Overcoming social determinants challenges
- Economic development: Focusing on sustainable economic development can alleviate poverty and improve access to essential services.
- Nutrition programs: Implementing nutrition programs, especially for children and pregnant women, can combat malnutrition.
- Migrant support: Providing support for migrants, both internal and external, can ensure they have access to essential services and protection.
Overcoming the key challenges to access in Latin America requires a multifaceted approach that addresses active screening, budget constraints, and social determinants. It necessitates collaboration between governments, international organisations, and communities to build a more equitable and inclusive society in the region. By investing in infrastructure, improving budget management, and addressing social determinants, Latin America can work towards better access to essential services for all its citizens.