We obviously haven’t read the fine print of the proposed federal budget released by the Obama Administration in Washington, D.C., yesterday, but we were encouraged to read about the prospect for new funding to broaden our approach to global health.
According to a story in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, the new policy will retain HIV/AIDS as the administration’s top funding priority (hard to disagree with that), but there will be new funding to reducing deaths from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth, poor nutrition and common treatable illnesses that kill millions every year, particularly women and children.
We applaud this effort, and it plays right into the work we’ve been doing at our Global Health Center in recent years.
Our doctors, like many others, have for years been going on mission trips to provide both clinical care and education in countries that have not been as fortunate as ours when it comes to health care. The Global Health Center goes way beyond this good work.
The Global Health Center is working to initiate new global activities and expand those already existing. We already have partnerships with several hospitals overseas, including in China, the Middle East and Europe. We see patients from dozens of foreign countries and we send our residents and doctors to many others. We have research programs in places like the United Arab Emirates, Gambia, Mexico and elsewhere.
Research interests in the Global Health Center include the use of childhood vaccines, including pneumococcal and influenza vaccine, in countries with limited resources. Through collaborations in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal, we are evaluating the burden of disease due to pneumococcal and Hib vaccine-preventable infections. We are also investigating the prevention and treatment of low levels of Vitamin D in Arabian women.
Our doctors, including Global Health Center director Mark Steinhoff, MD, have been widely published (including in the New England Journal of Medicine) for their work, particularly for demonstrating that flu shots for pregnant women protect their unborn and young children. (We also recently published work in the prestigious journal Lancet on the risks and benefits of mass flu-shot campaigns like we’ve undertaken to combat the spread of H1N1.) Dr. Steinhoff’s work recently caught the eye of the Gates Foundation, which is funding a multi-year project to expand the research.
There is no easy fix. It will take work from our doctors and others, including those we are partnering with at hospitals and universities around the world. It will take funding from places like the Gates Foundation. And it will take governmental support like President Obama is proposing. (The details of the new budget are scarce, but the president last year pledged $63 billion between 2009 and 2014, including $51 billion to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria, and $12 billion for other priorities, including maternal and child health.)
We know the budget is a long way from being approved and there is a lot of competition for a limited amount of funding. But we’re glad the global health efforts have the attention of some of the folks in D.C. Let’s hope that attention translates, ultimately, into better health for children (and adults) all over the world.