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Obama Global Health Initiative Targets Maternal, Child Health, Disease

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Vidushi Sinha

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced a new $63 billion Global Health Initiative with an emphasis on maternal and child health, family planning and programs to fight infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.  

"We need a comprehensive, effective global system for tracking health data, monitoring threats, and coordinating responses," announced Clinton.

World health experts previously have worked together to combat various respiratory diseases, polio and other global outbreaks. The administration's aim now is to tackle health problems that can be eliminated with relatively little investment, and to ensure health care for women and girls.

Terry Miller, an economist at the Heritage Foundation, agrees with some aspects of this approach.

"The focus of international and even public health services in many of our countries have always been primarily on infectious diseases and there has not been in way of resources moving internationally into non-infectious diseases like cancer or heart disease," said Miller.

But Miller says the focus should go beyond improving the health of women and girls.

"I would like to have seen a little more emphasis on improving outcomes for a society as a whole in an equitable way across all genders," added Miller.

Dr. Peter Hotez at the George Washington Medical Center wants the Global Health Initiative also to focus on medical research.

"A very important piece that I think is missing from the Global Health Initiative that I would like to see, and that is research and development for new drugs and new vaccines," said Dr. Hotez.  "GHI is extremely important providing life saving technologies that are already available, but who is going to be developing the next generation of those drugs and products?"

Secretary Clinton says the United States is standing by its commitment to fight HIV-AIDS.  AIDS activists are concerned there is a waning interest in the disease.

"The AIDS epidemic is still an emergency. It hasn't gone away and it will not go away," said  Sharone Ekambaram, a spokeswoman with Doctors Without Borders.

AIDS activists say if funding for HIV/AIDS is not increased, more children will be orphaned as their parents die from the disease and AIDs will once again devastate entire villages.

Dr. Hotez calls for a broader balance to public health. He says that along with HIV/AIDS, and maternal child health problems,  there is a need for more funding in dealing with some of the other very important global health threats like neglected tropical diseases affecting billions of people worldwide.

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