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 Press/Media Corner
PAHO Centennial Celebration launched in Washington, DC

 PAHO Headquarters
A banner at PAHO Headquarters
announces the start of
the Centennial celebration.
The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) today launched the celebration of its 100th anniversary, marking a century since its founding in Washington, D.C., in 1902. A hemispheric agency with 35 Member Countries from throughout the Americas, PAHO also serves as the Regional Office of the World Health Organization.

 Dr. George Alleyne
PAHO Director,
Dr. George Alleyne
PAHO Director Dr. George Alleyne was joined by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher and Director of the District of Columbia Department of Health Director Dr. Ivan Walks at PAHO headquarters in Washington, D.C., where the Organization received congratulations for its century of public health service in the Western Hemisphere.

"This 100-year celebration represents the best of mankind, reaching across borders caring about people and their health," said Dr. Satcher. "It is one thing to have a vision, but another thing to care. That's the spirit of PAHO that has meant so much."

 Dr. David Satcher
U.S. Surgeon General
Dr. David Satcher
gave the keynote speech.
Dr. Satcher and other guests praised PAHO's critical work throughout the 20th century in helping the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to control infectious diseases including smallpox, polio, malaria, and tuberculosis. They also noted the Organization's more recent work in promoting general health and more equitable access to health care through multisectoral efforts and community-based programs.

"The model of truly cross-cultural public health is one that we can build on, and help to build with PAHO," said Dr. Walks, chief health officer of the District of Columbia. "I want to salute the work that has been done here for the last 100 years."

Today's kick-off included the announcement of 11 Public Health Heroes chosen from throughout the Americas for their important contributions to public health. PAHO also announced three hemisphere-wide contests. They include a special Centennial poster contest for children 6 to 12 years old and an essay contest for youths 13 to 18. Winners will receive a $500 cash award and a computer donated by Discovery Health Channel/Discovery Health Online. In addition, PAHO is sponsoring a journalism award open to newspaper writers throughout the Americas.

Today's observance will be followed by a number of commemorative activities throughout PAHO's Member Countries during 2002.

 Band plays at Centennial Launch
A steel drum band helped to
create a festive atmosphere
at PAHO Headquarters.
PAHO was founded in December 1902 during the International Sanitary Convention held at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. U.S. Surgeon General Walter Wyman and U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt were among those who addressed the convention. Chief among the health concerns of the time were yellow fever and other infectious diseases that were being spread through the burgeoning maritime commerce of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Participants in today's festivities cited the Organization's most notable contributions during its 100 years as the eradication of polio in the Western Hemisphere, dramatically lowered infant mortality rates, dramatically improved life spans, and growing access to basic health care throughout the Americas. They also cited continuing challenges to the Organization, particularly HIV/AIDS and the health consequences of smoking.

"By definition, none of us knows what the next 100 years will bring," said PAHO Director Dr. Alleyne, "but we do know that human beings will continue to value their health as something important in and of itself. We know they will also see it as a critical and essential instrument for the realization of that potential with which we are all endowed. There will be new diseases and new forms of old diseases that will challenge the ingenuity of humankind to overcome them. But I have every confidence, based on the history of 100 years, that PAHO will be of use in addressing these problems."

Back to PAHO Centennial Press/Media Center

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