Hindsight is 2020

December 17, 2020

A few months ago, I talked about a global health marathon. Now, with several additional mile markers behind us, the 2020 race is nearly in our rear view mirror. Before we cross the finish line, finally getting this year behind us, I want to highlight what we’ve done in the last quarter to further global health progress.

At a high level side event, held on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in September, advocates focused on spurring global investment for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator (ACT-A) and, in particular, ACT-A’s vaccine pillar (COVAX). At the same time, GHC sought to mobilize support for ACT-A and COVAX here in the U.S. Our team led a community letter to Congressional appropriators, highlighting the growing need for emergency funding and calling for at least $20 billion in global health and humanitarian assistance. This work is not done, of course. As negotiations for both regular and emergency appropriations continue in the House and Senate, GHC will remain vigilant in calling for the necessary resources.  

Despite serving on the frontlines, being best positioned to identify needs, and helping to ensure critical resources reach those who need them, civil society has largely been left out of the formal COVID response. To address this challenge, I joined colleagues from Women in Global Health and Kenya Legal & Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS to call for increased civil society engagement, funding, and protection in global health governance. In October, our article, Investing in civil society for better democracy and better health, was published on the BMJ blog.

November was a busy month for many reasons. At the 73rd World Health Assembly, GHC submitted a statement urging increased focus on, and investment in, Universal Health Coverage. In particular, our delegates called on member states to invest in research and development of new tools and to prioritize primary health care. In addition, we submitted statements calling on the WHO secretariat and member states to remain committed to a broad range of global health priorities that are essential to a more holistic pandemic response and recovery worldwide.

The U.S. election also took place in November, ushering in Joseph R. Biden as President-elect, as well as a slate of new representatives who will serve in the 117th Congress. Quickly upon the heels of the election, GHC hosted Pandemics, Politics, & Privilege, a two-day virtual convening focused on how the U.S. should reenter the world stage and take an honest look at its global health initiatives in the wake of COVID-19. We followed this conversation up by rolling out our New Vision for Global Health, a blueprint for incoming policymakers to modernize and improve program efficiency and outcomes, prevent or mitigate future global health threats, stimulate vibrant and growing economies, and drive equitable access to health worldwide. GHC has been convening a series of meetings with congressional and presidential transition staff to discuss these and other recommendations for the way forward.

So, at long last, we are nearing the end of our 2020 marathon. Though it won’t be the typical holiday season, I hope you are all able to get some well-deserved rest and perhaps even enjoy COVID-safe, virtual festivities. Surely, the new year will still require some resolve. But it also should be met with a good dose of optimism, if only for the opportunity to build on what we have learned throughout this crisis. I look forward to collaborating with each of you in our ongoing efforts to advance global health in 2021 and beyond.