By John Ariale, Principal, Husch Blackwell Strategies and Global Health Council Board Member
Recently, Global Health Council’s President and Executive Director, Loyce Pace, shared her thoughts on the new 2021 Global Health Briefing Book (GHBB). Today, I want to share my own experience as someone who has benefited from this material in the past—and continues to benefit from it today. After a 25-year career on Capitol Hill, and having served as the Chief of Staff and Appropriations Associate for a Member of Congress on the House Appropriations Committee and the State, Foreign Operations (SFOPs) Subcommittee, I now have had the privilege of continuing my service to the global health community as a Global Health Council (GHC) Board member. Having served in all of these roles, I am in a unique position to speak to the value of the GHBB for its intended congressional audience, as well as for the broader global health community.
I retired from service as Representative Ander Crenshaw’s Chief of Staff in late 2013. During my tenure on his staff, I handled the portfolio of issues under the jurisdiction of SFOPs Subcommittee and, as such, had the opportunity to work with many of you. In addition to the expertise you provided to me in that role, I found myself turning to the GHBB for information and guidance more than any other resource. Why? Because it came from a group of individuals and organizations that I respected immensely. As a nonpartisan organization made up of thought leaders in global health, I knew that information shared by GHC was an unvarnished, real-world snapshot of the current landscape. For those of us with little time to spare, the bite-sized format was easily and quickly digested. Even if I could not read the full report, I was sure to look at the recommendations to help guide my decision-making process.
But my tenure on the Hill was before the time of COVID-19. Today, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the GHBB will have more utility and impact than ever before.
Never in our lifetime has every single American citizen been so impacted by a global health crisis. Certainly, we’ve had other epidemics and even, a century ago, a pandemic. But most pandemics, at least those that you and I have witnessed in real time, have taken place on different shores. Other public health emergencies the U.S. has experienced have been contained to a segment of our population, in some form or fashion. COVID-19 has reminded us that diseases know no borders, that there are fundamental cracks in health systems that need to be filled, and that health for some is not nearly good enough. Access to high-quality care is necessary for everyone.
It is a painful lesson that we must learn from; the impact of such a crisis on global health security, international relationships, community, and nearly every facet of our lives is too enormous to ignore. Those lucky enough to live in this country have access to resources to address this crisis that other countries do not. There are nations that will not recover from the pandemic for decades. As we look to the post-COVID landscape, we need to consider how we can improve health not only for the U.S., but also for the world.
As Loyce said, if there is a silver lining to the pandemic, it’s that it has invited us to be bold. And there is an appetite for boldness both within the Biden administration and Congress. Still, policy decisions must be guided by science and principle. And they must be sustainable. Every single appropriated dollar needs to be used in an efficient and effective manner. We must take full advantage of policy initiatives and be flexible in the way things are delivered on the ground.
That’s where the GHBB comes in. It can help ensure:
- That those advising policymakers have up-to-date information that resonates in a meaningful way;
- That we identify ways to make limited resources stretch farther by scaling up programs that work; and
- That equitable and accessible healthcare is at the center of the decision-making process.
COVID-19 has been an enormous, very costly wake-up call. We can’t waste the opportunity it has provided to reset the global health agenda. My hope is that we can use tools like the GHBB, as well as guidance from the New Vision for Global Health, to reimagine foreign assistance for the 21st century.