Washington, DC — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the United States has moved to a more holistic approach to investing in global health and that countries receiving aid need to “step up” to demonstrate their commitment to improving the lives of their people.
Clinton spoke Monday at the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C, about the Global Health Initiative, an effort launched in 2002 by the World Economic Forum and its partners to improve global health through three key activities: advocacy, dialogue and partnerships.
The United States is investing U.S.$63 billion in the initiative to sustain and strengthen existing health programs, as well as to collaborate with governments, organizations, civil society groups and individuals to help broaden improvements in public health, Clinton said.
“We’re shifting our focus from solving problems, one at a time, to serving people, by considering more fully the circumstances of their lives and ensuring they can get the care they need most over the course of their lifetimes,” she said.
“The United States is willing to invest our money, our time and our expertise to improve health in countries,” Clinton said.
“But we are now asking their governments to demonstrate a similar commitment, in terms of human resources, serious pledges to build capacity, and where feasible, financial support. We expect these countries to step up. And their people expect the same.”
To galvanize countries' leaders, Clinton said, the United States was “bringing to bear the full weight of American diplomacy.” She said diplomats were working closely with their counterparts worldwide to embed a deep commitment to health.
“Too often, we’ve seen health relegated to the sidelines and treated as a lesser priority in terms of how much money is allocated and how much attention is devoted,” she said. “In fact, we’ve seen that the United States and other donors come in with money and countries actually take money away from health, thinking that we’re going to make up the difference.”
“What we’re trying to do is take a look at every program and policy that we have across the government, and more effectively design and execute those to deliver on that promise of integrated networked power,” Clinton said.
She said before the end of the year the administration of President Barack Obama would be releasing the first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review.
Clinton cited examples of where a more integrated approach has been successful.
In an example drawn from Nigeria, she told of how rumors developed during a polio outbreak in the north some years ago that polio vaccine was a plot to sterilize Muslim children.
"No matter how hard our development experts or our doctors or our nurses or anybody from one of our agencies worked, that problem undid much of the efforts that we were engaged in,” she said.
The U.S. launched diplomatic efforts, and eventually an emir in the region had his own grandchild vaccinated with the oral polio vaccine.
“That spoke louder than any lecture we could give, any argument we could make,” Clinton added. “So we can’t do one without the other. We have to have a coordinated effort.”
She stressed the importance of leadership in improving health. “For years, the South African leadership, unfortunately, was in denial or was refusing to accept the facts about HIV/Aids, and the epidemic exploded in South Africa, which now has the highest percentage of HIV-infected people anywhere in the world.”
But President Jacob Zuma’s change in approach has made a “stunning” difference.
“We saw first hand on the ground what a difference it makes when a president says we’re going to start treating people, we’re going to work with our generic drug manufacturers to produce more drugs, we’re going to open more clinics, we’re appointing a health minister who is young, dynamic, and very committed,” Clinton said.
“I’ve been in enough countries... to know that leadership is the alpha and the omega as to whether you’re going to have sustainable, effective, health care in any country,” she added.
"So I’m hoping that through this partnership this Global Health Initiative is offering to countries that we will see greater buy-in by leaders."