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On June 3, Congressmen Albio Sires (D-NJ) introduced the 21st Century Global Health Technology Act, a bipartisan bill that would provide the US Agency for International Development (USAID) with authority to strengthen its decades-long support for the development of technologies for global health. The co-sponsors of the bill include Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Adam Smith (D-WA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Michael Honda (D-CA), Yvette Clark (D-NY), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Norm Dicks (D-WA), and Donald Payne (D-NJ).

USAID’s partnerships in low-income countries with governments as well as implementing organizations make the agency uniquely positioned to identify gaps in health systems—from overburdened health workers, to a lack of clinics or electricity—and create the types of simple tools that can address them. The right tools are appropriate, affordable, effective, and able to reach the people who need them and give them control over their own health outcomes.

Among other things, the 21st Century Global Health Technology Act encourages public-private partnerships as a way to leverage US Government resources with private-sector investments to create the next generation of lifesaving drugs, vaccines, and devices.

The bill, supported by PATH, also codifies some of USAID’s technology-related activities. For decades, USAID’s advancement of health technologies has ensured that needed medical products and diagnostics developed for use in the world’s poorest areas have reached the people who need them most.

In line with the Obama Administration’s commitment to maintaining transparency and accountability, the bill requires that USAID submit an annual report to Congress on global health research and development activities at USAID, including USAID’s collaborations and coordination with other federal departments and agencies.

The success of technologies for global health is well-proven. Vaccines have saved countless children from death or permanent disability; safe injection devices have been used to address the world’s leading cause of maternal mortality, postpartum hemorrhage; and tools for water, sanitation, and nutrition have helped combat diarrhea, the world’s second leading killer of children.

We have the option of carrying these successes into the future.  If we are to address the global health threats of tomorrow, it is imperative to invest in the next generation of tools today.

Posted June 3, 2011.