January 11, 2012

HHS releases first-ever global health strategy

Policy and Advocacy Officer

Last week, HHS released its first-ever global health strategy at an event that convened leaders from several US agencies involved in global health, as well as representatives from non-governmental organizations. Releasing the strategy, which highlights many priorities for global health research and development (R&D), is an important move for HHS, as it encompasses agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), all of which play crucial parts in global health R&D.

HHS Secretary Dr. Kathleen Sebelius, who spoke at the event, stated that “we can no longer separate global health from America’s health … our only chance to keep Americans safe is if our systems for preventing, detecting, and containing disease stretch across the globe too.” She also noted that “every day, Americans benefit from efforts in global health, whether they know it or not.” Sebelius emphasized that the HHS global health strategy should not be an extra, isolated add-on to other programs, but must be an extension of HHS domestic programs and its already-existing programs in global health, with the following goals:

Sebelius' opening remarks were followed by a panel discussion moderated by KFF Executive Vice President Diane Rowland. Panelists included Nils Daulaire, director of the Office of Global Affairs at HHS; Ariel Pablos-Méndez, assistant administrator for Global Health at the US Agency for International Development; Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary of state for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs; Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE USA; Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine; and Jen Kates, vice president and director of Global Health and HIV Policy at KFF. While Sebelius’ speech emphasized the role of the strategy in meeting the health needs of the American population and US diplomatic goals, the panel discussion did the reverse—it examined how US agencies could be more engaged in global health work, and where they are strategically a best fit. The panel had several insights for the use of the HHS strategy and the future of HHS engagement in global health work abroad, including partnerships with HHS agencies not traditionally known as global health leaders—such the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which could help to strengthen health system capacity around the world.

The new strategy includes many major objectives that seek to spur global health R&D in order to develop new tools and interventions to help improve health and save lives around the world. These objectives include:

Overall, the strategy represents a great step forward in global health R&D at the HHS agencies, and a recognition of how essential their programs are, both to the US and populations around the world.