About Us

History of PAHEF

Since its inception, PAHEF has been dedicated to advancing health and health education in the Americas. PAHEF was created in 1968 by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to develop a program to improve medical education in the Americas. The program initially focused on promoting universities to use the most up-to-date medical textbooks translated into Spanish and Portuguese.  The program was so successful that it was later expanded to include textbooks for all of the health sciences as well as training materials for public health officials.


PAHO’s Directing Council gave its support and approval for the creation of a foundation, PAHEF. PAHEF’s board of trustees was formed and met for the first time on February 9, 1970.The Foundation’s board was initially led by Dr. Abraham Horwitz, the internationally recognized former PAHO director. Over time, as the relationship between PAHO and PAHEF has matured, the governance structure has also changed.

Today, the Foundation is governed by an independent board of directors comprised of 18 international health experts, business leaders, and academics with expertise in the region.PAHO appoints two ex-officio members that represent PAHO in the PAHEF Board in recognition of the continued cooperative relationship.

A 20-year Partnership

Over the years, PAHEF has expanded its scope of activities and currently works with a variety of partners to advance health in the Americas. One of the most notable and longest-running projects is an initiative to fight river blindness (onchocerciasis) in the region. As part of the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program of the Americas (OEPA), PAHEF has helped facilitate the donation of Mectizan tablets since 1989. The OEPA is a collaboration between PAHEF; The Carter Center; PAHO; Merck & Co., Inc.; the Centers for Disease Control; Lions Clubs; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the governments of Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, and Guatemala. As a partner in this initiative, PAHEF has made it possible for over US$45 million worth of Mectizan to reach communities in need—helping preserve the sight of countless individuals in countries where river blindness is endemic.

Awards for Excellence in Inter-American Public Health

In 1975, the Abraham Horwitz Award for Excellence in Inter-American Health was established by PAHEF and PAHO to honor leaders whose commitment to public health stimulates excellence among others. With the creation of this award, the Awards for Excellence in Inter-American Public Health Program was born.

The program has grown to a total of six awards. In addition to leadership in inter-American health, awards are presented to recognize: voluntary service, health literature, veterinary public health, bioethics, and universal health care. The awards stimulate the growth of the next and rising generation of leaders working together to improve health and health care in the Americas.

Small Grants Program

In 2005, PAHEF created a small grants program that awarded up to $50,000 to projects promoting the health of indigenous people, infection control in health care settings, healthy aging and countering childhood obesity. The very successful program concluded at the end of 2008, having funded more than 30 projects.


PAHEF’s expertise has grown from the management  include:

  • Program Administration;
  • Grant Administration;
  • Developing Innovative Health Education Models; and
  • Partnership Building.

Learn more about how PAHEF impacts health in the Americas in the Our Work and Success Stories sections of our Web site.

A Sample of Recent PAHEF Projects in the Region