Established in 1986 by the chief health officials of the US-Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPIs) of American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Guam, Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and the Republic of Palau, the Pacific Island Health Officers’ Association (PIHOA) is a 501(c)3 headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii, with a field office in Hagåtña, Guam. PIHOA’s mission is to provide, through collective action and decision-making, a credible regional voice for health advocacy in and for the Pacific.
PIHOA is governed by the ministers/directors/secretaries of health of the six USAPIs, their deputies, the Chief Executive Officers of the local public hospitals (associates), and Pacific regional professional associations and development partners (affiliates). Based on the priorities and needs identified by the USAPI health leadership, PIHOA’s Secretariat staff and consultants provide technical assistance to the USAPI health agencies in the following health systems strengthening areas: 1) health workforce development/human resources for health; 2) epidemiology and surveillance; 3) performance improvement; 4) laboratory services; 5) regional health policy and advocacy; 6) health security; and 7) leadership development.
PIHOA NCD Emergency Response
In May 2010, PIHOA’s governing board joined forces in a landmark decision to declare a regional state of NCD emergency under PIHOA Resolution #48-01 – Declaring a Regional State of Health Emergency Due to the Epidemic of Non-Communicable Diseases in the United States-Affiliated Pacific Islands. It was a critical decision that pulled the USAPIs together in responding to the NCD crisis in ways the region had never experienced. It triggered high-level responses and commitments across executive and legislative branches of government, and traditional leadership across the USAPIs. Following the declaration, an ‘incident command’ response framework (USAPIs NCD Strategic Roadmap) was developed to inform the regional response over three key phases:
- Sounding the Alert: raising awareness and advocacy amongst key decision-makers in the USAPIs and across the wider Pacific;
- Crafting the Response: developing NCD-related tools and resources and establishing effective partnerships; and
- Implementing the Response: adoption of an agreed package of NCD policies and legislation, convening a USAPIs NCD law and policy summit, and the collection and analysis of NCD data and information to track NCD progress and risk factors.
From 2010 to 2019, PIHOA’s Secretariat, in close collaboration with USAPI health agencies and in partnership with local health agencies and regional partners, has made significant efforts to mobilize resources to plan and implement a response to the emergency declaration. This included some key interventions including the development of and garnering the endorsement of regional and other key stakeholders for the USAPI NCD Policy Commitment Package; ensuring a coordinated response across the region by establishing the Health Leadership Council (PIHOA affiliates); developing and implementing the USAPI NCD Strategic Roadmap to guide the response; developing and maintaining the USAPI NCD Core Monitoring and Surveillance Framework and Data Set endorsed in consensus amongst all the USAPIs health agencies; and supporting local efforts to strengthen state/national-level NCD surveillance systems, capacities and processes to support evidence-based policy making and program improvement.