Later this month, the United States will inaugurate a new president who will appoint an entirely new administration. Like many of you, we’re wondering how the new leaders will address global health issues.
We asked a few of our global health faculty members what advice they’d give to the new administration. Here’s what they had to say.
Gavin Yamey, Professor of the Practice of Global Health
One thing that is concerning to anyone working in global health based here in the United States is that President-elect Donald Trump ran on a premise of nationalism and isolationism, which heralds a troubling era for international health cooperation.
Meanwhile, international collective action for health has never been more important. Many global health challenges transcend national boundaries and can be overcome only if multiple countries confront them jointly.
For example, we can’t be ready for the next pandemic if we turn inward. The 1918 influenza pandemic killed about 50 million people in an era before mass international transit. Deadly flu pandemics have happened roughly once every 100 years, so we’re due for another one in the not-too-distant future. The world is ill-prepared for such a pandemic.
But it’s not just pandemics that require international collective action. Another example is the need for cooperation in generating and sharing knowledge, including research and development for conditions of poverty.
Those of us working in global health will need to pay very close attention to whether the U.S. starts retreating from its impressive record on global health research and development.
Nimmi Ramanujam, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Global Health
When formulating healthcare policies, the new administration should strive to address health disparities. Lack of access to healthcare resources has had, and will continue to have, a devastating effect on people in many communities in North Carolina, across the country and throughout the world.
Economic factors are critical considerations in evaluating healthcare policy options, but the administration should also keep in mind that it takes healthy communities to sustain a prosperous economy. Developing and implementing policies that ensure healthcare access for everyone will improve the well-being and productivity of our communities and our nation overall.
Megan Huchko, Associate Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Global Health
Health is a stabilizing force, and U.S. commitments to global health have received broad bipartisan and popular support. The majority of Americans believe that we have a moral and diplomatic responsibility to take the lead in global health. Injecting politics into decisions related to global health issues would be ill-advised. The new administration should recommit our financial and programmatic support for global health initiatives.
The three main areas of global health that merit our continued commitment are communicable diseases, women’s health and planetary health.
Communicable diseases can threaten the social fabric and remind us that the world is intimately connected. The swift response to the Ebola epidemic has resulted in a vaccine that is 100% effective. The World Health Organization has suggested that 2017 may be the year that polio is finally eradicated. These examples, along with the success of our response to the next, unknown threat, are the result of continued commitment to partnerships and scientific discovery.
Women are a stabilizing force in society, providing economic and caregiving support to their families. Maternal health is essential to newborn and infant health; orphans have a much greater chance of death than children with living parents. Incredible advances have been made in women’s health in the past 20 years, with decreases in maternal mortality and unsafe abortions. These gains are mainly due to an increase in contraceptive coverage and policies and programs that focus on adolescents and address gender equity, many of which have been broadly supported by the U.S. Congress.
Finally, ignoring planetary health will have substantial, irrevocable consequences on human health globally. The Lancet summarizes planetary health as “the health of human civilisation and the state of
the natural systems on which it depends.” Deaths from air pollution and increases in food insecurity are already occurring, and the Centers for Disease Control warns that climate change will usher in many negative health effects that cannot be predicted.
David Boyd, Associate Professor of the Practice of Global Health
Along with our social and moral responsibilities to improve health outcomes around the world, I would like for the new administration to understand that global health is an important domestic issue.
We live in an interconnected world—from the threat of pandemics to national security, from the global changes in dietary and lifestyle patterns fueling non-communicable diseases to the loss of global productivity through injury and illness, and from the shared common resources of air and water to the impacts of war and violence.
A commitment to global health should be a critical component of the new administration’s agenda.
Along with our social and moral responsibilities to improve health outcomes around the world, I would like for the new administration to understand that global health is an important domestic issue.David Boyd, associate professor of the practice of global health