The Pacific Islands Health Officers Association, or PIHOA, would be holding the first of two annual meetings on Saipan on March 28.
PIHOA is a non-profit organization of health ministers, secretaries, and directors from U.S.-affiliated Pacific areas, which includes Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Saipan, and the Freely Associated States, which include the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Esther Muña is currently its vice president.
The aim of PIHOA is to pursue health policy development, knowledge dissemination, communication enhancements, health services, research, continuing health professional development, quality assurance, and cooperative networking inside and outside the Pacific basin.
“We address issues in the Pacific region regarding work force problems, climate change, non-communicable diseases, etc.,” Muña said.
PIHOA is supported by multiple organizations such as the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, which represent public health agencies in all 50 states, including that of the District of Columbia, the five U.S. territories, and the three Freely Associated States.
Also supporting the PIHOA is the Centers for Disease and Control, a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services.
Muña said that grants could also be secured through PIHOA.
“[PIHOA] supports the region,” she added.
PIHOA also assisted the CNMI in the wake of Typhoon Soudelor.
“PIHOA provided us with epidemiology from Guam and donations from the region and from the secretariat as well. There was a lot of support [crucial to the healthcare of the CNMI during the time of Typhoon Soudelor],” she said.
“There is no point in running a facility without [epidemiology]. You need to be out there doing the outreach,” she added.
Muña said it was an honor to be surrounded with “people that are really compassionate about healthcare and have the passion to really do something for the region.”
“I learned a lot from them,” she said.
Muña was considering Tinian or Rota for the meeting to showcase the other islands, but she thinks the more complete facilities on Saipan were in its favor.
PIHOA is usually hosted on one of the members’ islands on a rotation basis. For the first meeting of 2017, Saipan was chosen as its host.
The last time Saipan hosted the PIHOA was in 2012.