Christine Sow, Executive Director, GHC
As part of GHC’s ongoing advocacy work with the US government, I spent several days on Capitol Hill last week reintroducing the Global Health Council to key staff, promoting the global health agenda, and providing our community’s reaction to the President’s FY2015 budget request for global health accounts. This will be an ongoing effort but I wanted to share my initial impressions as we get started.
My meetings focused on staff working for legislators who serve on House and Senate State, Foreign Operations Subcommittees and staff who participated in the recent Livestrong/MSH-sponsored global health study tour to Uganda and Rwanda. I am happy to report that GHC was well received everywhere we went and there seems to be genuine support for global health programs and a reinvigorated GHC on the Hill.
Staff on both sides of the aisle were interested to hear our assessment that the President’s budget falls short in many aspect of global health. Most agreed. There seemed to be universal agreement as well that the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative that the President included ion the FY15 budget is unlikely to be enacted (particularly the $56 billion in new revenue needed to fund it) and that the structure for funding priorities, like additional funds for the Global Fund or nutrition assistance, would probably be similar to past years. Several appropriations staff we met with indicated that there is genuine interest in accelerating the appropriations process this year and that Committee and Subcommittee Chairs are motivated to follow the regular process, but acknowledged that major hurdles to enactment of a free-standing State, Foreign Operations bill exist. Deadlines for House and Senate State, Foreign Operations requests are coming up over the next several weeks and USAID Administrator Raj Shah is tentatively expected to testify before the House Subcommittee the week of April 7th.
It was also clear that Hill staff are interested in new ways to justify and explain the importance of global health funding to their constituents. Not surprisingly different messages resonated with different offices, including the need to enhance global health security as it relates to the US, the importance of global health investment and employment to economic growth in the US and in developing countries, and the role of US leadership vis a vis global health as a moral imperative. Staff also expressed strong interest in learning more about emerging trends in global health as well as the future of global health. We will be considering how we can best help meet these needs among legislators, including collecting convincing evidence and data to support our arguments and hypotheses.
We will be back up on the Hill this week and throughout the spring to advance the global health agenda and look forward to engaging GHC members in future meetings.