US Global Health Policy

Dr. Agnes Binagwaho is a pediatrician and serves as the Minister of Health of Rwanda. {Photo credit: dr-agnes.blogspot.com/}Photo credit: dr-agnes.blogspot.com/

The second Global Maternal Health Conference began yesterday in Arusha, Tanzania, as an intentional dialogue between scientists, researchers, implementers, advocates, policymakers, and media. More than 700 people (from about 2000 abstracts) were selected to attend and share knowledge on how to improve the quality of care and eliminate maternal deaths.

This is my first global maternal health conference --- but not my first maternal health conference. I keep wondering: how will this one be different?

As I went through the first day of sessions and informal exchanges, I couldn't help feeling like one person "stole the show". At lunch and dinner, the conversations kept coming back to the dynamic Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, the Minister of Health from Rwanda. She served as the keynote speaker in the opening plenary and a panelist for another session.

When you hear Dr. Agnes speak, you know she is smart and accomplished. And, talking with other attendees, it is clear that, regardless if participants agreed with her specific recommendations, Dr. Agnes' commitment, knowledge, logic, and candor are appreciated and needed in the conference conversation.

Tanzanian woman (Photo credit: MSH)Tanzanian woman (Photo credit: MSH)

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) invites you to attend the following sessions and poster presentations at the Global Maternal Health Conference in Arusha, Tanzania --- whether in person at the Arusha International Conference Center, or watching via archived videos online. (All times are listed in Eastern Africa Time: UTC/GMT +3 hours. Sessions will be recorded and available within 24 hours.)

Sessions: Tuesday, January 15

Improving access to essential maternal health medicines (Track 3): 13:30–15:00 · Simba

Moderator: Deborah Armbruster, USAID

A midwife in Wau, South Sudan. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Josephine, a wife and mother of six living in rural Uganda, tried to soothe her 3-year-old daughter. The girl was suffering from diarrhea and a high fever and her crying filled the home. Recognizing that the girl's health was in danger, Josephine summoned the courage to ask her husband for permission to take their second-youngest child to the local health facility unit -- and pleaded for money to cover the travel and treatment expenses.

Requesting permission from her husband to travel to the facility was not her only choice, however: choosing to take her daughter for treatment also meant leaving her other children -- including her youngest -- unattended at home. Once at the health center, she continued to navigate the challenging road to treatment for her daughter, communicating her situation to the health providers and negotiating the financial and provider aspects of the health center system, without assistance. Relieved and exhausted, Josephine returned home safely with her daughter, oral rehydration salts, and knowledge.

Recognizing women leaders

What makes a person in the health system a good leader? Who determines that he or she is a leader? How do we empower leaders to improve the health of those around them?

Last week, the House of Representatives cut the international affairs budget by 20% of the FY 2010 levels. While these are tough times, these cuts are disappointing given investments made in international affairs account for only 1 percent of the overall US Government budget.  More plainly, these cuts affect the poorest and most vulnerable people around the globe.

A recent poll conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org/Knowledge Networks showed that most Americans support foreign assistance levels up to 10% of the budget.

Furthermore, such small cuts in spending will not solve the deficit problem. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has argued that investments made in development and diplomacy can help deter future needs for resources for defense and that America’s national security depends on the civilian diplomats and aid workers who also risk their lives every day to support our overseas interests.

Last week, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report analyzing US Government foreign assistance spending on global HIV & AIDS and other health programs.

The report found:

In fiscal years 2001-2008, bilateral U.S. spending for HIV/AIDS and other health-related programs increased overall, most significantly for HIV/AIDS. From 2001 to 2003--before the establishment of PEPFAR--U.S. spending on global HIV/AIDS programs rose while spending on other health programs dropped slightly. From fiscal years 2004 to 2008, HIV/AIDS spending grew steadily; other health-related spending also rose overall, despite declines in 2006 and 2007.

The GAO commissioned this study in response to President Obama’s proposal to spending $63 billion through 2014 on global health programs under the new Global Health Initiative.

Read the full report.

The Group of Eight (G-8), holding their annual summit last weekend in Muskoka,Canada, announced a Canadian-led Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Under-Five Child Health (Muskoka Initiative). The Group of 20 (G-20) summit held immediately after in Toronto, resulted in no additional commitments to maternal and child health. MSH believes the G-20 missed an opportunity to support global health when the group did not endorse the G-8’s maternal and child health initiative announced the day before. The G-20 is a group of key finance ministers and central bank governors that meets semi-annually on matters relating to the international financial system.

On Friday, June 18th  USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, DC about the role USAID must play in the future of development. “President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made it my mission to remake USAID into the world’s premier development agency, to meet the security and development needs of the 21st Century,” said Dr. Shah.  In his presentation he laid out four elements for action to revitalize USAID

“Songs brought by foreigners do not last long at the dance.”  So goes a Kenyan proverb that supports the concept that countries should own their development. The development community knows this, but we aren’t yet making it happen on a broad scale. On the opening day of the Global Health Council conference last week, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) teamed up with Oxfam America to host a panel on country ownership and how to successfully achieve it.

To a standing room only audience the panelists from civil society, NGOs, local government, and US government discussed country ownership models from a varied perspectives. Highlights from the interesting conversation are below:

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