Guest contributor Claire Wingfield is a product development policy officer with PATH’s Advocacy and Public Policy team.
The US government is a major driver of groundbreaking global health research and development, providing 70 cents of every public-sector dollar that supports the development of products to improve health worldwide. Without that funding, research into a vaccine to prevent malaria, treatments for drug-resistant tuberculosis, and tests to quickly diagnose disease at the farthest reaches of the health system—to name just a few current projects—could stall or stop. And we could lose the opportunity to save or improve millions of lives, including our own.
This budget year, progress in global health research and development is threatened by severe cuts in funding. For the sake of continued progress in global health and development—as well as global security and economic prosperity at home—we must not scale back now.
Improving health at home and abroad
The US government has a proud history of supporting innovative technologies for global health. Through those investments, the American people have directly improved the lives of millions by supporting breakthroughs in vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, and other products that are crucial to defeating devastating diseases, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and the leading childhood killers—pneumonia and diarrhea. Today, that funding directly supports 200 of the 365 new global health products tracked by the independent research group Policy Cures—products that could help us eliminate malaria in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, stop tuberculosis, and end preventable childhood deaths.
The effects of US support aren’t only felt overseas. For every dollar we spend on global health research and development, 64 cents go directly to support US-based researchers and institutions. The funding creates jobs and funnels money into local communities. US contributions to global health are also critical to our efforts to improve global security. Improving health in developing countries strengthens people’s ability to contribute to their society, their family, their community, and their nation. Eventually, that can help to stabilize nations.
We’ll tip one way . . . or the other
Today, we’re at a tipping point: even as we continue to make unprecedented progress in many global health areas, funding for these efforts is threatened. If we lose ground now, the great global health gains we have achieved will stagnate, and the return on our investments will be diminished.
We know how to improve the health of people across the globe—to maximize US investments and make the greatest positive impact, innovative technologies must be part of the equation. The US must maintain funding levels for global health research and development to ensure that health gains continue to improve the lives of people, their communities, and their countries.