The Pan American Sanitary Code: Toward a Hemispheric Health Policy
Abstract[From the Background]. The Pan American Sanitary Code was signed ad referendum by 18 countries of the Americas in the assembly hall of the former Academy of Medical, Physical, and Natural Sciences (now the Dr. Carlos J. Finlay Museum of Science History) on 14 November 1924 in Havana, Cuba, during the Seventh Pan American Sanitary Conference. The Code, which was eventually ratified by all the republics of the Americas and remains in force today, represents the greatest achievement in health policy-making in the American hemisphere and the culmination of decades of international initiatives aimed at prolonging people’s lives and ensuring their happiness. Contagious diseases had been the greatest obstacles to progress toward these social goals. To combat them, nations had relied on the practice of quarantine, a medical-political model applied since the Middle Ages, whose documented use dates to the administration of the port of Venice in the 14th century. In the face of the threat of plague or a virulent epidemic, this “emergency regulation” was applied not only to control ships arriving at port, but also in cities to stop the spread of the disease, oversee the sick, protect the healthy, disinfect homes with perfume and incense, and bury the dead. The segregation of lepers and their banishment from cities was also an important aspect of this model.
Pan American Health Organization. (1999). The Pan American Sanitary Code: Toward a Hemispheric Health Policy. PAHO. http://www.who.int/iris/handle/10665/173330