President Obama’s New Global Health Initiative

by Eugenia Ho, Global Washington Volunteer

It has been an exciting month for the global health community.  On June 2, the Gates Foundation announced a new investment of $1.5 billion over the next five years in maternal and child health, family planning and nutrition in developing countries.   Also, the G8 nations are gearing up for their summit later this week,  where they will discuss a new initiative on maternal, newborn and child health in an effort to work toward achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals.  In the lead-up to the G8 Summit, Canada has announced its willingness to inject about $1 billion in maternal and child health in poor countries if other countries ante up.

Of course, we cannot overlook the latest development on the Global Health Initiative (GHI) – a U.S. program with the largest amount of money that has ever been committed to any global health initiative.   On June 18, 2010, the U.S. Department of State, USAID and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the GHI program’s governance structure and the first eight countries selected to receive additional technical and management resources under this initiative.   The eight countries are: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nepal, and Rwanda

The Global Health Initiative is a $63 billion investment over six years to help over 80 partner countries, where U.S. government global health dollars are already at work. The initiative aims to improve measurable health outcomes by strengthening health systems and building upon proven results.  With a comprehensive approach, it places a particular focus on improving the health of women, newborns and children.

According to the GHI’s Fact Sheet on the USAID website, the GHI established goals for improving health outcomes in HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, child health, nutrition, family planning and reproductive health, and neglected tropical diseases, with these principles:

– implementing a woman- and girl-centered approach

– increasing impact through strategic coordination and integration

– strengthen and leveraging key multilateral organizations, global health partnerships and private sector engagement

– encouraging country ownership and investing in country-led plans

– building sustainability through health systems strengthening

– improving metrics, monitoring and evaluation; and

– promoting research and innovation

The GHI announcement was welcomed by organizations such as UNAIDS and Oxfam America; while some organizations have different views.  Dr. Peter Mugyenyi, who runs the Joint Clinical Research Center in Kampala, Uganda, which is almost entirely PEPFAR funded, spoke about his concerns on NPR’s Morning Edition radio show.  He worries that the funding for HIV/AIDS will be diluted as more diseases become the focus under GHI.

 As you know, Washington State is a world leader in the field of global health, so this initiative could have a direct impact on local organizations.  According to the Washington State Department of Commerce, about $143 million of Washington’s annual tax revenue is generated by global health activities.  Washington State is home to some of the most renowned organizations and institutions with expertise in global health.  They include PATH, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, the Gates Foundation, the University of Washington, Washington State University, and Washington Global Health Alliance (WGHA).  A Washington-based organization, Health Alliance International, is part of a coalition of global health advocacy organizations who use the same name – the Global Health Initiative, and they came up with recommendations on how US development assistance for health should be structured in the future. 

Below are some additional news and resources on the Global Health Initiative:

 The Global Health Initiative Fact Sheet on USAID

Huffington Post

Wall Street Journal