Global Health Council (GHC) President & Executive Director Loyce Pace pens a letter to the leadership of GHC member organizations recapping her first year at GHC.
December 1, 2016.
That was the day I started my tenure with Global Health Council as its new executive director. I didn’t quite know what to expect. The organization was due for an update of its strategic plan. At the same time, Washington had just been rocked by a shocking election result. We were also anticipating a change of the guard at WHO. I found myself asking what critical role GHC should play in the global health advocacy space and how effective we could be, ultimately. And I heard from you, as leaders of our member and partner organizations, where you see our value and why you have joined us.
We all had to dig a little deeply for a sense of optimism coming into 2017, given all the unknowns. I reflected often on being a so-called peacetime versus wartime CEO and implications of the latter, not only for GHC’s mission but our core purpose as a global health community. We are advocates at heart who are called to “find our fight” amidst a set of circumstances that certainly aren’t business as usual. Meanwhile, we have our pragmatic side: a small voice that wants to find some level of compromise and constructive engagement, which lends itself to incremental progress. I would say both have their place.
Of course, pushing back on bad policy and poor decision-making is essential. There were a number of disturbing events early on that we collectively opposed, the proposed federal budget being only one example. I was proud of our community for how fervently and vociferously we spoke up and out against drastic cuts. That wasn’t just the right thing to do; it was our only option. And we did it together, as one voice. GHC also expressed concern regarding an expansion of the Mexico City Policy and its impact on global health outcomes worldwide. And we challenged WHO on how it engages with non-state actors.
Equally important is for global health organizations to take a closer look at ourselves and make adjustments to how we do business. It could simply be a matter of changing how we talk about what we do, finding better language to describe the benefits of global health investments in terms of GDP or national security. This has resonated with multiple audiences. Likewise, identifying different messengers has proven valuable. But there’s a deeper evolution afoot: global health leaders are asking themselves what partners, programs, or protocols they must put in place to sustain the progress they’ve realized so far, perhaps without solid government funding and leadership. This is a shift I’ve come to realize Global Health Council can also help our community navigate and reconcile. Thus, our upcoming symposium.
As I look ahead to 2018, it seems we share a confidence that was lacking this time last year. Now, I have no doubt we will win critical battles. We’ll certainly continue to face challenges, but our community has grit and resilience that serve us well. We also use our resources to play both offense and defense in a way that is smart and thoughtful. An ideal path forward is one in which we are just as bold in advocacy as we are in innovation. I am grateful to our awesome community for teaching me the value of working along this spectrum during my first year, and look forward to even more lessons in the years to come.
Thank you for your support of GHC, and being part of our ongoing efforts to improve health worldwide.