Organization of American States


Topic Summary

Introduction: Public Health in the Americas

The Organization of American States is one of the world’s largest and oldest regional organizations. It encompasses all 35 independent states of the Americas and serves to coordinate the peaceful cooperation of its members, in order to promote development, democracy, trade, and social inclusion throughout the region. Although its members are spread out on the spectrum of development, from the least developed state of Haiti to the highly developed United States, they often share similar challenges. Public health is an issue that affects both developed and developing countries equally, although typically for different reasons. According to the World Health Organization, the developing world tends to be more affected by widespread epidemics, higher mortality rates, and malnutrition, while the developed world is strongly affected by noncommunicable diseases caused by smoking, high-fat diet, obesity and lack of exercise. In the OAS, we will be able to address both cases.

While there is a general consensus on the fact that public health is essential for development and growth, leaders do not always agree on the correct way to intervene. To what extent is the state responsible for facilitating access to health care? What types of care should be subsidized by the state, and who should be the beneficiaries of funded care? More specific areas of controversy that affect public health in the Americas often surround issues of religion (eg. contraception, abortion), migration patterns (eg. refugee crises or illegal immigration), drug trafficking, and even economic factors. For example, the Venezuelan economic crisis has eroded Venezuelan public health infrastructures, while at the same time creating a humanitarian crisis with an increased risk of malnutrition and lack of access to medication. Venezuela will also be an interesting case to look at in terms of foreign intervention, to debate about the extent to which the international community may also be responsible for promoting public health in countries where the government is no longer able to fulfill its missions. All of these issues will be discussed in this guide, and will be interesting sources of debate.

Director’s Letter

Dear Delegates,

Welcome to HMUN, and welcome to the Organization of American States! My name is Salomé Garnier, and I am so excited to be your committee director during this year’s conference.


I am a rising sophomore at Harvard College from Cannes, France, studying Government with a secondary in Psychology and a language citation in Spanish. I have a strong interest in the Latin American region, its culture, people, politics, language, and fascinating history. Traveling is one of my passions, and I would love to talk to any of you about my experiences around the world, as well as hear about yours or your aspirations to travel. Volunteering abroad in Madagascar and Peru have been the most mind-opening experiences of my life, and my travels greatly influenced the way I think about economic, social, and developmental issues today.

Here at Harvard, I am a delegate for the Harvard ICMUN team, as well as part of the women’s heavyweight crew, social chair for the Harvard French Club, and sales associate at The Harvard Shop. Before coming to the Boston area, I lived in France for 10 years, and started MUN in middle school, first by participating in small, local conferences, and later by taking part in amazing international conferences. For example, some of you may have attended The Hague MUN, of which I have kept fond memories. My time as a delegate in high school left such a profound impact on my academic and personal development that I am excited to share this experience with you in 2020, especially with a topic so dear to my heart.

The topic of public health in the Americas is important because it is an essential component of development. A healthier population is a happier and more productive one. There have been many improvements over the past century in terms of reduction of infant mortality rates, longer life expectancy, avoiding the propagation of serious epidemics, and more, but a lot of issues remain. I am currently spending the summer of 2019 in Chile studying its public health system and the health issues it faces, so I am excited to be preparing this conference from a local and practical perspective. I hope you will all find this topic as interesting as I do, and that you will thoroughly enjoy our focus on the Americas.

Best of luck in your preparations, and feel free to reach out with any questions!


Salomé Garnier

Director, Organization of American States

Harvard Model United Nations 2020