Strengthening Global Health by Elevating Policy

Cross-posted from DipNote U.S. Department of State Official Blog


I was honored to be asked by Secretary Clinton to lead the new Office of Global Health Diplomacy. I am proud to serve my country in this capacity while also remaining the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. I am equally delighted that a skilled and seasoned diplomat like Ambassador Leslie Rowe has agreed to join me in establishing the new Global Health Diplomacy Office in the State Department. We have seen first-hand in countries around the world that America’s investments in global health not only improve and save lives, they build stronger families, communities and nations and contribute to economic growth. And stronger and more stable nations abroad mean a stronger and more stable America.

Increasingly, our investments are also enabling countries to build the health systems they need to provide care for their own people. A goal of this Administration has been to ensure that we are not only investing in saving lives, but that we are helping partner countries eventually take on this responsibility themselves. Country ownership is a central objective of the U.S. government and it challenges our own government, partner and other donor countries alike to work tirelessly to create sustainable health systems that are eventually owned, managed and operated by the partner nation and their people. As Secretary Clinton said in June in Oslo, country ownership will take considerable time, patience, investment and persistence — but it is an end state that we can achieve together.

The task of the Office of Global Health Diplomacy is to guide diplomatic efforts to advance the United States’ global health mission to improve and save lives and foster sustainability through a shared global responsibility. In doing so, our office will focus on providing diplomatic support in implementing the Global Health Initiative’s principles and goals.

The U.S. government is a leading contributor to global health efforts, with foreign assistance investments in approximately 80 countries. The Presidential Policy Directive on Development (PPD) and the State Department’s first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) identify supporting global health as a top foreign policy priority. The QDDR states that “we invest in global health to strengthen fragile and failing states, to promote social and economic progress, to protect America’s security, as tools of public diplomacy, and as an expression of our compassion.”

The new office will bring the full force of U.S. diplomacy to advancing our global health goals. Specifically, it will:

Support our ambassadors on the ground, where our investments are translated into lives saved. As called for in the QDDR and as described in Secretary Clinton’s call promoting “smart power,” the role of ambassadors in the global health arena will be elevated as they pursue diplomatic strategies and partnerships within countries to foster better health outcomes. We will provide ambassadors with expertise, support and tools to help them effectively work with partner country officials on global health issues affecting their people.

Strengthen sustainability of health programs by supporting partner countries as they work to meet the health care needs of their own people and eventually achieve country ownership. We will work with ambassadors to build political will in countries, in pursuit of sustainable health systems without barriers to care.

Foster shared responsibility by supporting countries to coordinate donor nations, multilateral institutions, civil society, the private sector, faith-based organizations, foundations, and community members. Stronger coordination and alignment will strengthen overall investments in global health, bring more donors to the table and better leverage U.S. investments. We will convene and work with U.S. government agencies representing our interests in multilateral organizations to advance our global health priorities and improve and save more lives.

The Obama Administration is committed to continued smart stewardship of the funds that Congress and the American people entrust to us to improve global health. And the results have been notable:

• Nearly 5.1 million people are receiving life-saving HIV treatment as of September 2012, an increase of 3.8 million since 2008.

• 58 million individuals were reached with malaria prevention measures in 2011, an increase of 33 million people since 2008.

• 1.3 million TB cases were treated in 28 countries in 2011

• 696 million treatments were delivered to individuals at risk of contracting neglected tropical diseases in 20 countries from 2008-2011

• There has been a 15 percent reduction in the maternal mortality rate in U.S. government-assisted countries since 2008, and we’re on track to reduce the maternal mortality rate by 26 percent by 2013.

To ensure sustained impact, we also know that we can’t go it alone. It is through our diplomatic efforts that we will forge deep partnerships and shared responsibility for improved health across the globe. Our new office will play an important supportive role to Ambassadors and health teams on the ground, fortifying high-level diplomatic engagement to strengthen the capacity and political will required to build strong, country-owned health systems. Our country Ambassadors are our arms and legs — and hearts and minds — in driving the hands-on implementation of America’s global health strategy. We are committed to doing everything we can to support their efforts.

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