Thursday, February 19, 2009

Global health is a local issue

Here is an op-ed I wrote about the Global Fund running into funding shortages due to donor nations backing out. Usually, it's enough just to post the piece here, but I want to use it as an example of how media advocacy can work together with face-to-face advocacy.

Two weeks ago, my RESULTS group had an amazing face-to-face meeting with Jan Schakowsky asking her to champion full funding of our fair share. She agreed to look into it and work more with the RESULTS staff in DC on it, so I am helping her out and hoping to inspire her further by linking the issue to our local interests in local media. This ran in her district and in at least one paper in a neighboring district.

My RESULTS group will try to get even more mileage out of it by having others write letters to the editor about it and post comments on the on-line versions of the paper. All of the media we generate will be sent to the Congresswoman and her aides, so they can see that we are her partners in this endeavor and we are actively working on promoting the issue to her constituents. Since we also are lucky enough to have a Senator strong on global health, I also mentioned him and will send copies to Senator Durbin's office as well.

Please read on! -ccyl
Global health is a local issue
February 19, 2009

Times are hard. Regular folks are cutting back on charitable donations and they're not alone. Countries are doing it, too. Donor nations backing out of established commitments to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are projected to cause a $5 billion shortage in 2010. The U.S. is falling short by $1 billion for 2009.

Many Americans react to such news by thinking, "That's unfortunate, but things are tough all over. We need to keep our money at home." One billion dollars seems like a lot to send overseas when families right here are making routine trips to the food pantry.

The problem with this view is a matter of scale. When considered out of context, a billion dollars sounds deceptively large. Despite misconceptions that five, 10 or even 20 percent of our national budget is given away to help developing nations, only a 0.16 percent sliver of last year's $13 trillion pie went to development assistance.

What would our fair share contribution do? First and foremost, it would save lives. It would put the U.S. in a leadership position to leverage contributions from other nations so the Global Fund can continue its groundbreaking programs. Last year alone, the Global Fund distributed 70 million anti-malaria bed nets, provided antiretroviral drugs to 2 million people living with HIV, and treated 4.6 million cases of tuberculosis. Other activities included helping children orphaned by disease, sheltering women disowned by husbands who infected them with AIDS, teaching remote villagers to detect and treat malaria locally, and even protecting Cook County residents from the global rise of drug-resistant TB.

It's a mistake to assume that the problems of global poverty are full of exotic diseases and have no impact on Americans. Failure to control TB in concentrated areas anywhere in the world can give rise to a more dangerous strain of drug-resistant TB that's just a plane ride away from infecting our country. Diseases of poverty also affect national security. Our friends and relatives in the armed forces risk their lives in countries where poverty has created conditions ripe for violence and instability.

Many of us fall into the trap of thinking widespread global disease and poverty are unsolvable problems. Don't believe that for a second. Since 1980, the percentage of people in the developing world living in extreme poverty has fallen from 50 percent to 25 percent.

The choice does not have to be whether we use our resources to take care of us or "them." The choice can be both. Though foreign aid funding is an easy target in a recession, it uses a very small portion of our resources.

The decision whether or not to honor our pledge to the Global Fund will be greatly influenced by the actions of U.S. representatives, senators and a president from Illinois. There is a saying that "all politics are local." The old adage is particularly true for us in Illinois. Our leaders like Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-9th, and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., have strong records of supporting global health programs.

All politics may be local, but when we consider the tremendous impact of reducing HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in the world today -- our local politics are global.

1 comment: said...

This is a great argument that I haven't seen others push enough. I am guessing that one reason the environmental movement has been so successful (compared to global health) is that any one individual person is empowered to do something right now that makes an impact (recycling, turning off the lights, etc.). With global health that is not the case, but if we can push this idea of it having a local impact, perhaps we will make more headway.