FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 20, 2008
Contact: HHS Press Office
Secretary Leavitt Travels to México and Central America to Advance Product Safety Efforts
Multinational Summit on Product Safety, Visit to Regional Health Care Training Center in Panamá and Review of U.S.S. Boxer Mission in El Salvador also planned
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt is visiting México and Central America next week to strengthen efforts to improve the safety of products and to advance joint programs to improve health care in the region.
The week-long trip to México, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panamá includes meetings with senior government officials and business leaders; discussions of joint efforts to advance public health; a visit to communities that benefited from a recent visit by the U.S.S. Boxer; and a listening session with students from the Regional Health Care Training Center.
“Our countries share a strong commitment to enhance the safety of products across our borders and to advancing the health of our people. I look forward to a constructive forum on product safety and to exploring new ways for us to work together to ensure the quality standards consumers expect are met,” Secretary Leavitt said.
In México City, the Secretary will meet with government and industry leaders and tour La Costeña, a food processing plant that produces chilies, beans, tomato purée, ketchup, mayonnaise and other products.
In El Salvador the Secretary will meet with President Elias Antonio Saca and attend a day-long product safety forum with government officials and business leaders from the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
He will also visit Acajutla, a community that was visited by the U.S.S. Boxer in May. The U.S.S. Boxer is a Navy amphibious assault ship that traveled to El Salvador as part of mission Continuing Promise 2008, a collaborative effort between the United States and other governments to build partnerships that can be called upon in the event of a regional situation requiring cooperative solutions. In El Salvador, the mission provided primary medical care to over 11,000 citizens, repaired hospital equipment, trained hospital staff, and shared ideas and experiences on best practices for long-term public health solutions.
In Nicaragua, Secretary Leavitt will meet with President José Daniel Ortega Saavedra and tour Lake Nicaragua to learn about the Nicaraguan government’s plans to clean up both Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua and to share what the U.S. Government is doing in watershed management and water sanitation for Nicaragua.
The clean-up of both lakes would contribute greatly to improving the health of Nicaraguans who live along the lakes and use its water for daily activities. USAID has been working to improve management of targeted watersheds, protected areas, and to promote sustainable agriculture and tourism in Nicaragua.
Secretary Leavitt will also meet with business leaders in Nicaragua and speak to students at the National Autonomous University.
In Panamá, the Secretary will meet with government and industry leaders and tour the Regional Health Care Training Center, where he will meet with students. The Regional Health Care Training Center, founded in April 2007, is an initiative of Secretary Leavitt and his colleagues from Central America. The school trains a broad variety of local health care workers so they can provide basic care. The training will also help them prepare for situations that could require specific skills, such as a possible pandemic influenza.
HHS and other federal departments and agencies have a long history of collaboration with governments and public and private organizations in the Americas to address the most pressing health issues. Since 2001, the United States has spent almost $1 billion on health programs in the region.
The visit will help to further the work of President Bush’s Interagency Working Group on Import Safety, which Secretary Leavitt chaired. In November 2007, the group presented the President with the group’s Action Plan on Import Safety. The plan contains short- and long-term recommendations for continuing to improve the safety of products that enter the United States.
This is Secretary’s fifth visit to Central America while at HHS. For more information, visit www.globalhealth.gov.
Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.
Follow HHS on Twitter @HHSgov and sign up for HHS Email Updates.
Follow HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Twitter @Sebelius .
Last revised: May 7, 2011