To help prevent the next global disease outbreak and build toward long-term health, the U.S. should focus on building stronger health systems in developing countries.
The United States has long demonstrated leadership in tackling health challenges in developing countries, whether fighting HIV/AIDS or containing the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Yet while U.S. global health funding has expanded more than five fold under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the impact is unlikely to be sustainable without a coordinated approach that focuses on building the public health systems in those countries, says Tiaji Salaam-Blyther, a specialist in global health at the Congressional Research Service.
“The biggest thing that we can do as a government is to improve our coordination and our collaboration, so we have one goal in one country — versus having a maternal/child health goal, an HIV/AIDs goal, a malaria goal,” says Salaam-Blyther, who has worked to help develop legislation to improve the effectiveness of U.S. global health assistance.
“Rather than saying, `What interventions do we need to support to address this disease?’ — you say, `What interventions do we need to support to strengthen the system to address the gamut of health issues?’” she says in a video interview during the recent GE Developing Health Summit, which brought together the GE Foundation’s partners in global health.
One model is the refocusing of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to encourage local partnerships and country ownership. “So the question is: How do we do something similar with PEPFAR, where it created its own microsystem, but broaden it for public health?” says Salaam-Blyther in the interview:
(Top image: Courtesy of CDC Global)