With continued global technological and economic progress, now more than ever, the health security of the United States is dependent upon the health security of other nations.
Today’s world is a very small place easily traversed in under 24 hours. In that short time, a virulent, vector-borne micro-organism could invade its human host, rapidly multiply, make the host ill, and infect new hosts. For the cost of an airline ticket, a person infected in Africa – or any other country or region in the world – can board a plane and arrive in New York in the time it takes you to begin and end your workday.
In the wake of the Ebola crisis on the continent of Africa, the urgency for increasing global health security reached a crescendo, alerting the average American to how severely and swiftly deadly disease can spread from one person to another, from one continent to another.
In response, the Constituency for Africa (CFA) quickly assembled the African Healthcare Infrastructure Committee (AHIC) to address deficient areas made apparent by the crisis. AHIC is comprised of stakeholders in global health, international development, and economics, and is organized with the imperative to find African-based solutions for challenges in alleviating disease burden on the continent of Africa and within the African Diaspora. A particular focus of the AHIC is to assist Africa in developing a skilled and steady healthcare workforce, improving the effectiveness of healthcare infrastructure, and creating a system of infectious disease surveillance readied to address future threats.
Out of the formation of the AHIC, and with input from the citizens of African nations, African heads of state, members of the African Diaspora, and healthcare workers on the ground in Africa, AHIC recommends that the incoming Trump Administration continue the efforts of the U.S. to support the strengthening of healthcare systems throughout Africa and to reduce the threat of vector-borne disease in the United States. Specifically, in line with the global health security agenda, CFA’s AHIC recommends that the Trump Administration:
1. Provide funding and technical support for the creation of multiple Centers for Disease Control in Africa – This is essential to improving healthcare infrastructure in Africa, and will assist in building the capacity of African nations to prevent, surveil, and respond to both acute and chronic healthcare issues.
2. Address healthcare infrastructure in Africa as a national security issue – Infectious diseases can quickly become cross-border threats. As a matter of national security, the U.S. should have a proactive strategy, and the allocation of funding for one threat should not be diverted to another.
3. Ensure U.S. institutions and agencies leverage the skillset, knowledge, expertise, and experience of the African Diaspora – Learning from the experience of the Ebola crisis, the Diaspora is a tremendous resource and should be appropriately incorporated into the planning and execution of key U.S. healthcare initiatives throughout Africa.
4. Support the development and strengthening of African Regional and sub-regional institutions – This will help increase the capacity of Africans to ensure viable, African-led solutions.
5. Pay attention to the rise of non-communicable diseases, which are also becoming epidemics in Africa – A proactive, comprehensive U.S. healthcare infrastructure strategy for Africa should support African nations and help address a wide range of health challenges, improve healthcare delivery, and ultimately save lives.
CFA’s President and CEO, Mr. Melvin P. Foote, thinks that the Trump Administration may surprise us and have a robust Africa strategy and program. Said Mr. Foote, "The strategic interest of the U.S. is inextricably tied to Africa and the global economy. Moreover, issues of health are also globally interconnected. If we allow disease and health challenges in Africa to go unchecked, for sure those same problems will land on our shores in short order, like Ebola and Zika. The smart thing for the U.S. and other Western countries to do is to invest in mitigating health challenges in the early stages on the ground in Africa through research, surveillance and prevention programs."
CFA is an education and advocacy organization. For over 26 years, CFA has worked to increase the level of cooperation and coordination among a broad-based coalition of U.S. and international organizations and individuals committed to the progress, development, and empowerment of Africa and the African Diaspora.