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

Global Health Innovation Act The Global Health Innovation Act of 2017 was introduced to Congress last Tuesday, March 21 by Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ). The bill, titled H.R. 1660, instructs the “Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to report to Congress, annually for four years, on the development and use of global health innovations in USAID programs, projects, and activities.”

The bill is currently in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where it will be voted upon. If it passes the committee, it will go before the full House. An earlier version of the bill was previously introduced to Congress in 2015, also by Sires, and was passed by the House in December of that year. Unfortunately, the act — titled the Global Health Innovation Act of 2015 or H.R. 2241 — died in the Senate before it could reach The White House.

“Each year, millions of people in the developing world die of infectious diseases, malnutrition, and complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Sadly, many of these deaths are preventable and I believe we must do what we can to save these lives,” Congressman Sires told The Borgen Project.

“It’s worth noting that investing in global health isn’t just the right thing to do but a winning strategy for U.S. businesses. Eighty-nine cents of every dollar the U.S. government invests in global health research and development benefits U.S. based researchers and between 2007 and 2015 these investments created 200,000 new jobs and created $33 billion in economic growth. The critical research and development of global health technologies have facilitated the development of life-saving technologies saving countless lives across the globe.”

Accountability Surrounding the Bill

As the bill outlines, the report by the Administrator of USAID must be comprised of a number of elements, including the medical technologies used by the Agency and their impact on ending disease and death, as well as the Agency’s goals and progress in developing additional health products. Any cooperation with outside federal agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in accomplishing this objective must also be documented in the report.

Furthermore, the Administrator must detail the finances of USAID, which include independent relations, as well as donations and partnerships. Lastly, joint projects involving the Agency’s individual organizations, such as the Global Development Lab, the Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact, and the Bureau for Global Health must also be documented.

Although there have been numerous global health breakthroughs made possible by the help of USAID, such as the eradication of smallpox and the approximately 25 percent decline in deaths from malaria since 2000, there is more progress to be made. The Global Health Innovation Act of 2017, as Congressman Sires has confirmed, will continue such progress by successfully keeping USAID accountable through the documentation of its goals and progress in global health.

Gigi DeLorenzo