A new report says the United States can advance its interests around the world by investing in a strategic global health policy. It says besides saving lives, a new policy could bolster national security and build new partnerships.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a bipartisan Washington think tank, published the report: A Healthier, Safer and More Prosperous World.
It’s based on the recommendations of a commission that includes health and business leaders and members of Congress, media foundations and others.
Stephen Morrison is director of the CSIS Center on Global Health Policy.
He says, “We formed this commission in April of last year because we felt there was a need to look strategically and long term at what the U.S. approach on global health should be. This is an area where the United States had made major achievements in the last decade. It is an area that has enjoyed very strong bipartisan support. And we’re in a period of transition and it would be important to have a smart strategic long-term strategy.”
But what is a smart strategy?
“What we mean by that is using all U.S. assets to full advantage. And that means both soft and hard power to advance U.S. national interests. And when we talk about global health and a smart approach, what we mean by that is that this is an area of U.S. investment that has multiple payoffs,” he says.
He says those payoffs include better health for the world’s population, stronger economic growth and political stability. What’s more, he says, it “enhances America’s standing in the world.” In other words, it’s good diplomacy.
“It’s very much an instrument of foreign policy and it should be seen as such. It’s not purely a humanitarian endeavor. But clearly, the objective of saving lives and enhancing lives is the lead and core element, but it’s not the only element,” he says.
A strategic international health policy can also balance the view of the United States being a superpower.
“You could make that argument in the sense that it is an instrument on the softer side of our toolbox that is very, very effective, exceptionally effective,” he says.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies report makes five recommendations.
“First,” says Morrison, “the U.S. government needs to stay the course, continue a trajectory of growth on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. These are the bedrock. These are the foundation for U.S. programmatic successes up till now and we need to sustain those.”
The second recommendation is to make women and children a priority in global health efforts. The report says there’s been “considerable neglect” on the issue over the past few decades.
“There’s a really unconscionable record of high mortality, disability, morbidity associated for both children and for mothers,” says Morrison.
Other recommendations include strengthening U.S. capability to deal with emerging threats, such as a pandemic flu; and making good investments in multilateral institutions, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.
It also places an emphasis on the prevention of tobacco and alcohol abuse.
The report calls for the creation of a new deputy adviser on the National Security Council, who would be a link between the president and agencies carrying out international health policies.
Many groups have called on the Obama administration to boost spending for HIV/AIDS and other health issues. They describe current U.S. spending as flat during the economic slowdown. However, the director of the CSIS Center on Global Health Policy does not share that view.
“Well I disagree that there’s flat funding. This budget request that’s been put forward by this administration in its first true budget for 2011 calls for an increase from $6.8 billion to $7.5 billion. And that’s a substantial increase. It’s over 8 percent,” he says.
The CSIS panel was co-chaired by retired U.S. Admiral William Fallon and Dr. Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE.