December 19th, 2013
04:07 PM ET

Time ripe for a new kind of global health aid

By Sir Richard Feachem and Dr Gavin Yamey, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Sir Richard Feachem is director of the Global Health Group at the University of California, San Francisco. Gavin Yamey is an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco and leads the Evidence to Policy Initiative in the Global Health Group. The views expressed are their own.

It’s been nearly 100 years since San Francisco was hit by the flu epidemic that swept the world and eventually claimed 50 million lives. In February 1919, the United States Public Health Service released data showing that San Francisco suffered the most of all major American cities, with a death rate approaching 30 deaths per 1,000 people.

In today’s era of mass, rapid international transit, and in the face of rising rates of “spillover” of animal infections into humans, concern is growing that the world could soon face an even deadlier global flu pandemic. The terrifying reality is that the world is shockingly under-prepared.

The 1918 flu pandemic reminds us how interconnected we are as a planet.  The only way that we can adequately prepare for public health emergencies like a flu pandemic is through international collective action. With global health threats, we all win together, or we all lose together.

In a new report that we co-authored and launched at the University of California, San Francisco this week, we lay out a plan of collective action called “Global Health 2035,” aimed at tackling these global threats and at dramatically improving human health within a generation. It is a forward-looking global health investment plan for the next generation – one that re-thinks the approach to the way aid is delivered, and ensures that lives are saved.

Our plan is bold, but entirely feasible, and it would greatly protect and improve global health. The plan will require all countries, rich and poor, to come together to make collective commitments, provide collective financing, and take collective action. If the right investments were made today, by 2035 we could:

1)      Tackle global threats like pandemic flu, antibiotic resistance, and drug-resistant forms of TB—by developing new treatments, vaccines, and diagnostics and strengthening national and international surveillance systems.

2)      Reduce infectious, maternal and child deaths by investing in and aggressively scaling up proven health technologies to achieve what we call a “grand convergence”  in global health—that is, a reduction in these deaths to universally low levels.

3)      Sharply reduce deaths from chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease—through international action to curb risk factors (“global public bads”) like smoking and consumption of junk food.

For the first time in human history, our generation has the collective financial and ever-improving scientific capacity to get the job done. Today’s low- and middle-income countries are on course to experience profound economic growth over the next two decades. If they commit to using just 1 percent of this GDP growth to support public health, they could finance a grand convergence almost entirely without external aid.

And what role should the United States and other aid donors play? We argue for a new kind of aid – less focused on giving money directly to countries and more focused on providing global public goods and on managing cross-border health threats.

This new kind of aid would mean stepped up commitments to funding health research and development to find better treatments for diseases of poverty, such as childhood diarrhea and pneumonia, which together killed around 2 million children in 2011. It would put a bigger focus on sharing lessons learned on how best to curtail the bad habits that lead to poor health, such as through taxing tobacco or ending subsidies on fossil fuels. This new aid would also build and strengthen global abilities to track disease threats.

Only through this kind of international collective action can we achieve common health goals for all humankind.

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Topics: Health

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Joseph McCarthy

    This is one time that all countries need to bury the hatchet, so to speak, and work together on fighting new epidemics such as a new strain of drug resistant tuberculosis going around. As the saying goes, politics and religion, they divide whereas medicine, it unites!

    December 19, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
  2. THORN

    If global health is so bad, why is it the planet is burdened with seven plus billion people who are sucking the life right out of it. There is only one, one and only one issue the world needs to coalesce around and that is fertility rates. A one child policy for the planet would be a good place to start.

    December 20, 2013 at 9:05 am |
  3. rightospeak

    How about a decent healthcare for the US ? Healthcare for Veterans that actually cover all preventive healthcare like colonascopy and that veterans are not penalized for transferring money in their retirement years from one account to another. I am convinced that our ' representatives" planned the Big Robbery with the creation of 401 K accounts.

    December 20, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  4. Timmy Suckle

    I kissed my way up to VP at a health insurance company. Now I take over $600,000 of your health care dollars for NO VALUE ADDED to your health care. And that’s just me. Now think about how many other VPs, Directors, Managers, etc. are at my company alone. Now multiply that by thousands of others at hundreds of other health insurance companies. From 10 to 25% of your health care dollars go towards administration that adds NO VALUE to your health care. But my company’s PAC dollars will continue to fool you little people into thinking that a single payer system will be bad. Little people like you are so easy to fool. Little people also don’t realize that a single payer system is the ONLY system that would allow little people (as an entire country) to negotiate better health care prices. Little people don’t realize that the Medical Cartels already know that. And that is the reason why the Medical Cartels spend so much PAC money from the hospitals and doctors lobbying against a single payer system. Some little people say that a single payer system would cost you little people more. But if that were true, then wouldn’t the hospitals and doctors WANT that extra money? Yes they would. So why do the Medical Cartels lobby against a single payer system? It’s because the Medical Cartels know it would allow little people to negotiate better health care prices. And that’s what the Medical Cartels are afraid of. Period.
    But us big wigs at insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmacy companies don’t ever need to worry about health care no matter what it costs. We get our health care paid for one way or another by you little people. And we get the little people that work at our companies to contribute to our PACs. And us big wigs say it’s to protect the little peoples’ jobs. But in reality it would be in the little peoples’ best interest to NOT contribute to the PAC. Again, little people are so easily fooled. I won’t ever have to worry about losing my job with so many little people being brain washed by the Medical Cartels’ PAC money. Not only that, the Medical Cartels’ PAC money is used to elect so many republicans that will never allow a single payer system. Republicans have always fought against any meaningful health care reform. But that’s what our Medical Cartels’ PACs pay them for. Politicians can be bought so easily.
    Pretty soon the only people that will be able to afford health care is us big wigs. And that’s the way it should be. We don’t want you little people using up the resources when we need them. And once again, I thank you little people for capping my SS tax at the $113,700 level. Now I only pay 1.2% SS tax and you little people pay 6.2%. Also, thank you for extending my tax breaks. I’m using the extra money on my vacation houses!!!!!!

    December 20, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  5. murar e yeolekar

    Hunger and under nutrition. . Population control and stabiliation are two other issues that demand priority in global context

    December 22, 2013 at 12:35 am |
  6. chrissy

    Because @ THORN the Good Lord said "be fruitfull and multiply!" Its in the bible.

    December 25, 2013 at 7:18 pm |

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