The United States should significantly intensify its commitment to global health in the next four years by increasing funding for and placing greater importance on health when setting overall U.S. foreign policy, a new report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies finds.
Funded in part by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Google.org, and the Bill & Melinda Gates and Rockefeller foundations, the report, The U.S. Commitment to Global Health: Recommendations for the New Administration, found that between 2004 and 2008 more than 70 percent of U.S. global health funds were allocated to AIDS programs, while funds for chronic disease programs were virtually nonexistent. Today, however, chronic non-communicable diseases account for more than half of all deaths in low- and middle-income countries.
According to the report, the United States should work to ensure that as global health funding levels increase, the quality of global health programs also increase. To achieve a more balanced and strategic U.S. global health effort, the U.S. should partner with national governments to coordinate its global health efforts with the health priorities of countries receiving aid; work to strengthen local health systems and work forces; support the independence and leadership of the World Health Organization; promote increased research of health problems specific to poor populations; and create a White House Interagency Committee on Global Health, which would include heads of major federal departments and agencies involved in global health and be chaired by a senior White House official at the level of deputy assistant to the president.
"The financial commitment that we are asking from the new administration and Congress is not trivial, but neither are the potential benefits from such a commitment," said Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center president and CEO Harold Varmus, who is co-chair of the committee that wrote the report. "Investments guided by a coherent vision for U.S. engagement in global health can avert millions of premature deaths, foster economic development, and strengthen our international relationships. Making such investments is especially important when a global financial crisis threatens the health of the world's poorest and most vulnerable populations."