Investing in global health is essential to the safety, security, and future prosperity of the United States. In addition to the humanitarian case for foreign aid, there are three very powerful reasons, which are aligned with President Donald Trump’s populist “America first” vision, why the administration should maintain and even spend more on global health.
- Deadly epidemics threaten US lives and prosperity – Over the course of the past two decades, we have faced numerous periodic crises stemming from infectious diseases, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), swine flu, Ebola, and now the Zika virus. Each of these cost US lives and billions of US dollars in response. By investing in health research to develop and stockpile new vaccines and drugs, and stronger health systems to deliver these preventive tools and cures, we will get out ahead of new infectious diseases before they become global disasters.
- Foreign Aid for health yields huge returns for the United States – Every US dollar spent on HIV prevention and treatment generates $10 in health and productivity benefits for the countries mounting large AIDS programs with our help, as a result of the infections and deaths averted; every dollar spent on tuberculosis generates $30 in societal benefits. US leadership in global health has helped produce remarkable improvements in global well-being.
- It strengthens US leadership on the global stage and counters our rivals – The United States launched its first international health programs in Africa after World War II out of Cold War ideological concerns. These early investments in health were motivated by the belief that training health professionals and controlling infectious disease would improve the population’s quality of life, and in turn, reduce their susceptibility to communism. Since that time, global health aid has continued to serve as an economically efficient way for the United States to promote its values and promote conditions that discourage turmoil around the world, from which the United States stands to gain in the long term.
If we cut our aid and leave a vacuum, it will be filled by US rivals, starting with China. Chinese foreign aid is growing fast, at an annual rate of more than 20 percent per year, and is rapidly catching up with US assistance. Chinese health aid to Africa in particular has grown rapidly. China is now one of the top ten bilateral global health donors to Africa and provided at least US$3 billion dollars in African health aid from 2000 to 2012. If our health support to developing nations … is severely curtailed, we should expect China to fill the void.
In addition, withdrawal of US support for health in areas affected by military conflict and military crisis could lead to the entry of non-state actors whose views are antithetical to those of the United States. Health aid can help fight the underlying causes of terrorism.
[Read full article at Health Affairs Blog]