Day Three Plenary: The Global Health Initiative

The room was packed for the first session of the second full day of the CUGH conference. The topic was something that affects every member of the audience – the President’s Global Health Initiative (GHI).  Five distinguished speakers each provided an interesting and distinct perspective on the GHI, which was announced last year.

Moderated by Michael Merson of the Duke Global Health Institute, the session began with a short filmed statement from Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, highlighted the administration’s commitment to the GHI and to the poor. Goosby stressed the need for individual countries to build solid health systems with supporting research and innovation that could save more lives and lower overall costs.

Kevin De Cock, Director of the Center for Global Health for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasized global health as one of the five priority areas for the CDC. He explained that the CDC strives for capacity, security and impact with the global health sector.

J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Commission for Smart Global Health Policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, reaffirmed that the GHI is indeed making progress with a high quality team. Morrison also discussed the difference in economic climates between two global health initiatives – PEPFAR and GHI. PEPFAR was launched at time when AIDS was a perceived emergency, budgets were more ample, and foundations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation were just emerging. Currently, there is a reduced perceived external threat of pandemic, an increased budget uncertainty, an unsustainable national deficit, and a fraying partisan legislature. However, despite these challenges, the GHI remains a priority with even more initiatives and goals than PEPFAR.

Two university experts on global health, Wafaa El-Sadr, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Program, Columbia University and Ann Downer, Executive Director, International Training and Education Center for Health, both addressed the role of education, research, and practice in global health. Downer was particularly interested in the role that universities could play in global health. With the long enduring model of the university, there is a history of innovation, discovery, and experimentation. Universities are also able to forge partnerships and address problems with a multidisciplinary approach.

Overall, the speakers were hopeful that through government aid, foundation funding, partnerships, and a sustained commitment, we will be able to successfully address the GHI key objectives in the coming years.

Prepared by Rachel Lonsdale

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