Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet
S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University
of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.
Beyond their structural and organizational problems, UN agencies have
the virtue of being repositories of vast data, including important data on
health. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is the oldest international
health agency—100 years old in 2002. Its publication Health in the Americas was started a full 50 years ago in 1954.
Epidemiological data are not always accurate and reliable: they may
be gathered with insufficient rigor and are prone to manipulation by authorities.
Data from the Americas, however, have been an exception, mainly thanks to
the consistent work of PAHO and its provision of technical assistance to biostatistics
offices in the health ministries of its member states. The classic study by
Ruth Puffer and Carlos Serrano of infant mortality and its contributing factors,
organized by PAHO in the late 1960s, was one of the most influential efforts
in achieving better standards of data collection and processing.1 In
this domain, however, we still have a long road to travel. Health in the Americas, 2002 helps point the way.
Jimenez J. Health in the Americas. JAMA. 2004;291(21):2644-2645. doi:10.1001/jama.291.21.2644