January 12, 2016

Obama highlights global health and innovation in State of the Union

Policy and Advocacy Officer
President Obama 2016 State of the Union address
Photo: White House

GHTC has long championed US leadership in global health and innovation, and we were encouraged to see President Barack Obama highlight these themes in his State of the Union address.

On combating the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the president highlighted a coordinated domestic and international effort to leverage expertise, resources, and value-add of all partners—a strategy we support for advancing global health R&D. He stated:

Fortunately, there’s a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power. It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight…

That’s how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa. Our military, our doctors, and our development workers set up the platform that allowed other countries to join us in stamping out that epidemic.

The president also discussed US investments in global health and development as a core piece of American foreign policy and national security, nodding to the Global Health Security Agenda, which coordinates domestic and international efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to global disease epidemics. In addition, his message called for renewed commitment and funding for US efforts to end the epidemics of HIV/AIDS and malaria:

Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right. It means seeing our foreign assistance as part of our national security, not charity.

When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick, that prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores. Right now, we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS, and we have the capacity to accomplish the same thing with malaria — something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.

President Obama also highlighted the transformative power of medical research to end endemic and emerging health threats:

For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all. Medical research is critical.

GHTC is pleased to see President Obama echo themes we have long advocated: partnerships and innovation are key to advancing health at home, and around the world.

To curb the spread of emerging disease epidemics, we will need domestic and international commitment to work together and develop new tools and technologies to monitor, track, diagnose, and treat infectious disease. To finally end the scourge of malaria and achieve an AIDS-free generation, we will need renewed commitment to develop innovative vaccines and treatments that move us beyond current interventions. To cure noncommunicable diseases and other health challenges that plague developed and lower-income countries, we need continued investment in research and development for health technologies.

GHTC looks forward to working with the president and his administration to drive these issues forward in 2016.