As a member of the Global Health Technologies Coalition, Research!America was invited to participate in a hybrid exposition/briefing event hosted by GHTC focused on the role of science, research and innovation in promoting U.S. global health and development policies worldwide.
The event, “Sparking innovation to save lives: How the U.S. can advance global health through new technologies,” was moderated by Yasmin Halima, MPH, director, Global Campaign for Microbicides. Panelists included keynote speaker Kerri-Ann Jones, PhD, assistant secretary of state for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs; Alex Dehgan, PhD, science and technology adviser at USAID; The Honorable Mike Castle, a Research!America board member; and Elizabeth Bukusi, PhD, chief research officer and deputy director of research and training at the Kenya Medical Research Institute.
All of the speakers emphasized the necessity of global health partnerships and diplomacy. Diplomacy, Jones said, means the recognition that we must work together to solve old global health problems with new technologies. “Global engagement through partnerships” is essential, Dehgan said.
“The cost of disease affects all countries. Disease doesn’t respect boundaries,” he continued.
A striking point that Dehgan made was the importance of getting treatments to people who haven’t yet been reached. One example of “connecting the unconnected,” as Deghan described it, was the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action. A partnership between the State Department, Johnson & Johnson, the UN Foundation, the mHealth Alliance and BabyCenter, MAMA (its clever acronym) uses mobile technology to deliver health information to mothers around the world.
The panelists agreed that the U.S. should leverage its power to bring research to the field. Dehgan quoted the Research!America poll finding that 94% of Americans think government, academia and private industries should work together to develop new treatments and cures.
Further, Dehgan and Bukusi discussed the moral imperative behind global health. We all have choices, Bukusi said. A Kenyan native, she said that these choices define America. Dehgan solidified Bukusi’s point in citing the Research!America poll finding that 84% of Americans recognize that global health is a moral obligation.
This moral obligation can be fulfilled right here in Washington. Castle pointed out that Members of Congress play a key role in shaping global health policies because they are responsible for deciding how federal funding should be allocated to address global health problems. It is of critical importance, Castle said, that global health advocates bring their cases to their Members of Congress, who usually respond to the lobbying focus that comes to their door: a parent with a sick child, a nonprofit organization, a student of global health. But the issue must be made interesting to Members of Congress. One way to peak their interest, Castle says, is talking about global health in terms of the jobs it creates.
If everyone works together for the global health cause, “drops of water can become a mighty ocean,” Bukusi said.