The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Bill to save more lives faster needs Congressional support

What do these three things have in common?  Easy, low-cost tests to support diagnosis of diseases like HIV and malaria in minutes. A reformulated antiseptic to prevent infections after a baby’s umbilical cord is cut. A device to make sure vaccines are potent and have not lost their lifesaving power by being exposed to heat.

They are all health technologies advanced with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) that are now being used to save lives around the world.

{mosads}While perhaps better known for its humanitarian efforts and investments in development progress “brought to you by the American people,” USAID plays a vital but often overlooked role in health innovation. Congress now has a unique opportunity to empower USAID to save even more lives, faster, with the Reach Every Mother and Child Act.

The Reach Act is the most important piece of legislation for child and maternal survival to hit the hopper in decades. A bold, bipartisan bill just introduced in the House by Reps. Reichert (R-Wash.), Lee (D-Calif.), McCollum (D-Minn.) and McCaul (R-Texas), with a companion Senate bill introduced by Sens. Collins (R-Maine) and Coons (D-Del.) this summer, the Reach Act will help USAID accelerate progress toward ending preventable deaths of mothers, newborns, and young children in developing nations. It calls on USAID to more efficiently leverage U.S. investments to reach more women and children with lifesaving health services and technologies and, importantly, reinvigorates efforts to develop and scale new innovations to address leading causes of death and illness.

Health innovation is essential to saving more lives, faster. In a recent report, PATH estimated that introducing and increasing access to just five new maternal and child health technologies could save more than 3 million lives in the next 15 years.

PATH has worked with USAID for nearly 30 years. We’ve seen firsthand the ability of this agency to catalyze development of new health technologies and the real impact it has had around the world. Deaths of children under age 5 have been more than cut in half since 1990, and deaths of mothers have declined by nearly as much. Health technologies like medicines, vaccines, and bed nets have contributed significantly to this decline, and the U.S. government, with USAID as its lead agency, has played a significant role in this progress.

But we must do more. The Reach Act will make sure we can.

We still lose a child somewhere around the world every five seconds—mostly from preventable causes like diarrhea, pneumonia, or newborn infections. Every two minutes, a woman dies from pregnancy complications or childbirth. In today’s era of unparalleled scientific and technological progress, these deaths are unconscionable.

What’s more, the loss of a child or a mother is not just tragic for each family; it negatively affects communities and entire nations for generations to come. When we can save the lives of women and children and ensure they have what they need to be healthy and reach their full potential, entire countries are more stable and more productive. They become trading partners, and our assistance fosters good will. In fact, many of our closest allies and trading partners were once recipients of foreign aid.

Investing in maternal and child survival has bipartisan support not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do. The Reach Act gives every member of Congress a chance to make that smart decision, by calling on USAID to advance health technologies—with an emphasis on affordable solutions with high potential impact—to save even more moms and kids, faster.

The Reach Act’s legacy will be long-lasting and far-reaching. We call on Congress to support this landmark act. Give USAID the tools it needs to ensure that all children, no matter where they are born, can survive and thrive—with their mothers there to watch them grow.

Davis is president and CEO of PATH.


Most Popular

Load more


See all Video