Imagining “Bold Endgames” in Global Health

Photo By: Roland Pugh Jr.

On Monday, InterAction published a new briefing book, Global Health: Investing in Our Future, on the most critical health issues our members tackle around the world. It highlights how much good U.S. health programs have done around the world, including:

  • Over the last three decades, the U.S. has helped about 5.1 million people living with HIV get treatment.
  • More than 2.5 million children survive each year because of U.S. vaccination programs.
  • We are on the cusp of eradicating polio around the world, an effort the U.S. has invested in for years.

But beyond these successes, the briefing book looks forward to what Robert Clay, USAID’s deputy assistant administrator in the Bureau for Global Health, called “bold endgames” in global health: What steps will lead us to an AIDS-free generation? How can we bring an end to child deaths around the world, so that children born in Bangladesh, Chile and the U.S. all have equal chances at surviving to adulthood?

At Monday’s launch event on Capitol Hill, Clay focused on partnership, and how the U.S. government can partner with international NGOs, local civil society and local host-country governments to make the biggest impact against global health threats. He emphasized that money spent on global health is an investment so that these programs won’t be needed for future generations. When talking about the briefing book, he said, “What you’re seeing here is those interventions and those areas that can really make a difference in the world.”

They already have made a huge difference, too. Take child mortality rates, for example: over two decades, there has been a 41% decrease in the number of children under 5 who die each year. Still, each day nearly 19,000 children under 5 die, mostly of infectious diseases like malaria and diarrhea. The progress we have made is an indication that what we are doing is working, and the unacceptable mortality rates a reminder that we must not stop now.

President Obama’s budget plan for fiscal year 2014, released this week, calls for strong support for global health programs. He recommends maintaining the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria at $1.65 billion, as well as fully funding the administration’s pledge to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and scaling up proven child survival interventions. Now it is up to Congress to get behind strong support for global health programs, as they hash out a budget for next year.

As our executive vice president, Lindsay Coates, emphasized at Monday’s launch, “The right to health care and access to health care are so important to human dignity.” And she’s right. We have seen so much progress over the last 20 years, and I’m very much looking forward to what the next 20 will bring.