Preventing global health crises requires modest American investment
Business prides itself on solutions that generate a significant return on investment. As a rule, U.S. global health programs follow this principle. For less than 1 percent of the federal budget, global health investments have yielded impressive results above and beyond their original price tag, and are poised for even greater returns in the future.
For decades, elected officials on both sides of the aisle have agreed with their constituents that the U.S. should play a major role in improving global health. Most people can see how trends in the health and survival of children and their parents allows them to thrive at school and work, and grants them better access to robust incomes that drive individual wealth. This, in turn, leads to more stable families and communities.
Another good reason for ongoing support of global health programs – from the halls of Congress to cities across the U.S. – is the impact U.S. investments achieve every year. Experts estimate up to a 20-fold benefit for every dollar invested in global health between 2015 and 2035. Largely driving this number are several “finish lines” within our reach, including eradicating polio, eliminating HIV/AIDS and even ending preventable child and maternal deaths. Think about it: problems once deemed insurmountable can now be solved within a generation. U.S. global health investments tell a shared story of progress.
• Malaria deaths reduced by 60% since 2000, with a $40 return in increased productivity for every $1 invested in related commodities
• Cost savings from averted illness amount to $16 for every $1 spent by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance on immunizationprograms
• Savings of up to $31 in health care, water, education, housing and other development interventions for every $1 invested infamily planning and reproductive health
• Investments in health workers yield a 9-1 economic return
• One-third of all new global health products – e.g. vaccines, devices, drugs and diagnostics – developed with U.S. support, potentially benefiting American companies and researchers
There are countless examples across sectors and priorities of how global health is working worldwide. And, in recent years, the U.S. has worked to implement or improve value-for-money approaches, where investments in certain programs have leveraged alternative sources of funding to maximize impact.
International programs also offer lessons for U.S. health services, from community-based interventions to national or regional protocols for pandemic emergencies. As the world continues to grow increasingly smaller and countries grapple with shared health problems, we can learn a lot from our work abroad how to tackle similar threats here at home.
Amidst questions of America’s future role in the world, it is important to recognize that the U.S. has demonstrated unparalleled moral, economic and social leadership in global health and development. Whether driven by compassion or pride, reliable and targeted U.S. investments focused on the well-being of international citizens are an example of our nation’s longstanding commitment to the advancement of societies worldwide, including our own.
Strategic investments that promote efficiencies, maximize resources, and maintain a U.S. leadership role in global health will ensure we close gaps on the world’s most persistent challenges and prevent future crises. We are incredibly close to achieving once-lofty goals in our lifetime. Rather than rolling back progress, the U.S. should cement its legacy through proven methods that amplify our impact.
Loyce Pace is the president & executive director of Global Health Council, a U.S.-based membership organization representing the collective voice of the global health community worldwide. Global Health Council publishes comprehensive consensus recommendations and impact stories now available online called, “Global Health Works: Maximizing U.S. Investments for Healthier and Stronger Communities.”
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