The Link Between Poverty and EpidemicsOn Jan. 18, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to continue funding for H.R. 1660, or the Global Health Innovation Act, with an overwhelming vote of 423-3. The Global Health Innovation Act will support the progress of health innovations for USAID, the top U.S. government agency that works to end global poverty.

According to the original bill H.R. 2241, nearly nine million people die per year due to diseases and health conditions, many of which are preventable. USAID’s goal is to lower this statistic as much as possible and create democratic governments within underdeveloped societies.

The Global Health Innovation Act was reintroduced by Democratic Representative Albio Sires and other U.S. Representatives on March 21, 2017. Republican U.S. Representative of Florida Mario Diaz-Balart stated in a press release, “I am proud to reintroduce this critical piece of legislation with my friend, Rep. Albio Sires. It is more important than ever that the United States invest in global health and continue to deliver state-of-the-art medical devices and technologies.”

The Global Health Innovation Act will cost an estimated $500,000 or less from 2018-2022. This estimated amount by the Congressional Budget Office is subject to the availability of funds during each fiscal year. The bill would require USAID to track and report four annual updates to Congress of the developed health innovations and programs implemented.

These annual reports would track the extent to which health innovations have advanced, how progress is being measured and how these innovations are reaching set goals. The reports will also describe drugs, devices, vaccines, medical devices and technologies which are funded by the act. This detail is included to guarantee U.S. tax dollars are being spent in a logical and effective manner.

What work does USAID do?

USAID works toward sustainable global health by prioritizing three major goals: preventing child and mother deaths, controlling the HIV and AIDs epidemic and fighting infectious diseases. The overall goal of USAID is to improve health globally by bringing attainable medical innovations to impoverished countries in order to build better health systems. Through donors and partners, USAID has been working toward these goals and the Global Health Innovation Act will help bring these goals to reality.

Who is rallying for the Global Health Innovation Act?

U.S. Democratic Representatives Gerald Connolly (VA), Eliot Engel (NY), Brad Sherman (CA), David Cicilline (RI) and William Keating (WA) cosponsored the H.R. 1660 bill on March 21, 2017. Slowly, more Democratic Representatives joined them, including Suzan DelBene (WA), Joyce Beatty (OH), Nydia Velazquez (NY), Zoe Lofgren (CA), Ted Lieu (CA) and Timothy Walz (MN). Now that the bill has passed in the House of Representatives, it is important to continue rallying for its success as it still must pass in the Senate and be signed by President Trump.

How does it benefit the U.S.?

Global health is an important humanitarian concern as well as a business investment. Investing in global health creates new jobs and economic growth. According to Congressman Sires, between 2007 and 2015 global health investments generated $33 billion and 200,000 jobs. Investing in global health research and development has already impacted the U.S. with new health technologies. H.R. 1660 will continue to open doors for not only global health but also for the U.S. economy and technology.

What can be done to mobilize Congress?

Constituents across the U.S. can rally in support of the Global Health Innovation Act by calling or emailing Congress through a very simple process. Find the contact information for the appropriate Representatives here and Senators here. The Borgen Project has also provided a helpful tool to send emails through a template to Congress, which can be found here.

Contacting U.S. Senators and Representatives is effective because Congress staffers take a tally of every issue that constituents reach out for. This small bit of activism keeps important bills on the radar for Congressional leaders and can make a significant difference in a bill’s success. Even the smallest efforts can help create global change for people facing poverty.

– Courtney Hambrecht

Photo: Flickr