The U.S. Role in Global Health

May is global health month!  Now, you might be thinking, what does global health have to do with me, and why should I care?  Well, the reality is global health is America’s health.  As Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at the unveiling of the new HHS Global Health Strategy, “Health is an issue which aligns the interests of the countries around the world. If we can limit the spread of pandemics, all people benefit. A new drug developed on one continent can just as easily cure sick people on another. A safe global food and drug supply chain will mean better health for every country.”

In the U.S., this is exactly what we are working towards. U.S.-based scientists and researchers collaborate with government agencies, private research companies, and international organizations through public-private partnerships to develop new tools and technologies to fight disease both at home and abroad.  In many ways, the U.S. is leading the way in terms of research and development for new tools in global health and infectious disease.  In the 2012 G-Finder report, a five year review of neglected disease research and development by Policy Cures,the National Institutes of Health (NIH)continue to be the largest single funder of neglected disease research and development.  NIH funding outranks that from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, industry, and other European donor countries.

Given the current global economic crisis and the challenges faced by U.S. policymakers, some might jump to the conclusion that this isn’t where the U.S. should invest its precious resources.  Not so fast!  First of all, U.S. foreign aid is less than one percent of all federal government spending, and the money that the U.S. invests in NIH research in infectious disease is going to create high-level U.S. jobs.  In Research!America’s “Top 10 Reasons Why the U.S. Should Invest in Global Health R&D,” they note that “64% of every dollar the U.S. government spends on global health R&D goes to supporting jobs for U.S.-based researchers and product developers and building and improving U.S. research and technological capacity.”  Furthermore, the U.S. is at risk of losing its competitive edge in science and research to countries like China that are investing heavily in vaccine and other research.

It’s not just about jobs, though.  The world is becoming increasingly smaller as international travel rises and new pathogens are constantly on the move.  Infectious diseases do not respect international borders. We have seen this with SARS, avian influenza, and dengue fever, all of which made it to U.S. soil.  U.S. researchers and epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) practice monitoring and surveillance for the threat of new infections in the U.S.  Our ability to control and fight these diseases relies on the longstanding investment that the U.S. makes in research and development in global health and infectious diseases.

The benefits of U.S. investment in tropical diseases are humanitarian, diplomatic, and economic.  We cannot afford to rest on our laurels and wait for the next disease to cross U.S. borders.  The infectious disease and global health work being done by the NIH, the CDC, the Department of Defense (DoD), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is essential to ensuring a healthy world and a healthy America.

Today is World Malaria Day

Editor’s Note: Erin Will Morton served as a co-author on this post.

April 25th is World Malaria Day — a day set aside to recognize global efforts to control malaria. Today malaria researchers from all over the country, including members of American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene will be on Capitol Hill to talk about the importance of their work. The World Health Organization estimates that there were 216 million case of malaria in 2011, with an estimated 655,000 deaths. Despite being treatable and preventable, malaria is one of the leading causes of death and disease worldwide. The United States has shown remarkable leadership and investment in efforts related to research & development of new tools to diagnose, treat, and prevent malaria, as well as combating malaria though programs on the ground. U.S. government investment in malaria R&D, including through the Department of Defense, CDC, NIH, and USAID, provides a foundation for breakthroughs in ending malaria deaths by providing basic research, product candidates, and critical support. Progress has been made in the fight against malaria. In less than five years, reported malaria cases have been cut in half in more than 40 countries worldwide. Malaria in the 11 high burden countries has been cut by more than 50% and deaths related to malaria are estimated to have fallen by nearly 150,000 annually.  These efforts are estimated to save 485 children each day from dying from malaria. Malaria is a wily foe though and we can’t back down on our efforts.  The United States must remain committed to funding cutting edge research & development in malaria and the important programs making a difference.

Congressional Health Care Outlook: 2012

As Congress plays beat the clock, most people already have 2011 in the rear-view mirror and are looking to 2012, trying to discern what the Congress will do – or not –  with respect to health care.  With the November 6th election as the finish line, there are 311 calendar days and many fewer “legislative” days for Congress to meet and do any work.  Factoring in scheduled recesses and adding in Mondays and Fridays, which Congress typically uses for “district work periods,” there are an estimated 109 actual days that Representatives and Senators will be in D.C.  So, how will they use this precious time?  Continue reading

HHS Releases Global Health Strategy

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its first Global Health Strategy.  The strategy serves as a blueprint for HHS’ role in global health efforts and reflects its mission of managing and protecting Americans’ health.

“In a world where the flow of people and goods stretch across the globe, our only chance to keep Americans safe is if the system for preventing, detecting and containing disease stretches across the globe also,” Secretary Sebelius said in a speech at the Kaiser Family Foundation releasing the report.  “We can no longer separate America’s health from global health.”

The Global Health Strategy outlines ways HHS can achieve its global health vision – a healthier and safer world – and in turn, protect and improve the health of Americans. The Global Health Strategy names three goals that assist in achieving this vision:

1) using global health activities to advance and protect Americans’ health;

2) sharing America’s scientific and technical expertise with other nations and international organizations; and

3) working with other government agencies and non-governmental organizations to improve diplomacy efforts, national security, and international development.

Additionally, HHS lists 10 objectives that support these goals.  These objectives are to: strengthen global efforts to monitor, identify and control diseases; prevent the spread of infectious diseases and other health threats across borders; develop and implement responses to international outbreaks and emergencies; improve the safety of international food and medical device manufacturing; strengthen international health standards; spur international research and development of new health products; share best practices; address new patterns of death and illness; support President Obama’s Global Health initiative; and improve health diplomacy.

This long list of goals and objectives is derived from HHS’ mission of improving and protecting the health and well being of Americans.  While the goals are ways to achieve HHS’ global health vision, the ultimate desire is to ensure that Americans are healthy and safe.  HHS believes that the Global Health Strategy will lead to that result.