Category Archives: Obama Administration

Spotlighting NTDs Will Further Pres. Obama’s Goals for Africa Trip

After stopping in Gorée Island, Senegal, President Obama remarked, “I’m a firm believer that humanity is fundamentally good, but it’s only good when good people stand up for what’s right.”

While President Obama was referencing the need to strengthen and uphold human rights protections, his comment certainly applies to the urgent obligation to control and eliminate NTDs in Africa. With over 90% of the NTD burden occurring in this continent, Africans are deeply suffering from the debilitating health, social, and economic impact of these diseases – and remain stuck in extreme poverty as a result.

As the President continues his tour encouraging African nations to foster economic growth and empower youth, we urge him to acknowledge the essential link between treating NTDs and advancing prosperity. Here’s our “wish list” of points we’d like President Obama to address:

  • The U.S. is committed to reducing the impact of NTDs in Africa by supporting integrated treatment programs and offering technical assistance. USAID has already delivered hundreds of millions of treatments and will continue to invest in reducing the impact of the seven most common NTDs.
  • Adding deworming programs to all childhood nutrition efforts will strengthen food security and nutrition interventions. Removing worms will ensure that kids retain the nutrients required for proper physical and cognitive development.
  • As a leader on the continent, South Africa can play a major role in elevating NTDs as a priority health issue for the African region. Treating NTDs supports peaceful, healthy, and equal outcomes for society.

Tackling NTDs offers a concrete way to alleviate poverty, enhance food security and improve the lives of millions of Africans. Here’s to hoping that President Obama takes advantage of this monumental trip by giving these horrific diseases the attention they deserve.

What Does a Second Term for President Obama Mean for Neglected Tropical Diseases?

By Michelle K. Brooks, Policy Director, Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases   

As President Obama’s second term begins to take shape and new faces assume new leadership roles, many in Washington are trying to gauge what will happen to global health.  As recently highlighted in a blog posted by Heather Ignatius at PATH, President Obama began his first term with gusto as he rolled out his Global Health Initiative (GHI).  The initiative, which included specific goals for a variety of disease programs and overarching themes such as country ownership, empowerment of women and girls and health system strengthening, was met with great enthusiasm in the global health community and abroad.  However, funding became a major roadblock as Congress struggled with budgetary pressures and, at times, rightly (or wrongly) failed to see the benefit to a “whole of government approach.”

In his State of the Union address, President Obama addressed his commitment to serving the global community.

“In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades by connecting more people to the global economy; by empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve, and helping communities to feed, and power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach.”

The President also discussed efforts to increase research and development funding by investing more in science and technology. These opportunities would not only decrease the unemployment rate but would exhibit our nation’s ability to serve the larger public through global health concerns.

As for Neglected Tropical Diseases…

The USAID NTD control program, which began in fiscal year (FY) 2006 under then President George W. Bush, initially benefitted under GHI.  The Obama Administration included NTDs in its list of goals and targets for GHI and dramatically increased its funding.

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs): Reduce the prevalence of 7 NTDs by 50 percent among 70 percent of the affected population, contributing to: (1) the elimination of onchocerciasis in Latin America by 2016; (2) the elimination of lymphatic filariasis globally by 2020; and (3) the elimination of leprosy. (GHI Target)

Despite the gains made from the increased funds for NTD control and elimination – an increase in pharmaceutical companies’ drug donations, USAID expanding to 20 countries – the Administration unexpectedly cut the NTD program budget in its FY 2013 request.  The NTD community reacted and, Congress responded lauding the NTD Program’s success and approving  $125 million for the program in Senate Appropriations Committee…

So, where does that leave NTDs?  We think in good shape (despite sequestration)!  While not without some ups and downs, on the whole the Administration continues to support the principles behind NTD control and elimination, namely its cost-effectiveness, its proven success, its role in poverty reduction and its contribution to global health diplomacy.  And, we hope that as the Office of Global Health Diplomacy ramps up at the Department of State, that NTDs will remain on the President’s agenda.

New Congress, renewed administration

Heather Ignatius, a senior policy and advocacy officer with PATH’s Advocacy and Public Policy team in Washington, DC, recently wrote about her thoughts on global health and development priorities for the second-term Obama administration and the 113th Congress. Thanks to PATH for allowing us to share her piece.

As President Barack Obama was sworn in for his second term yesterday, I wondered: will he return to the idealism of his early presidency? Or will the nation’s challenging fiscal and political climate dampen his aspirations for improving the health of people in impoverished countries?

Four years ago, I was optimistic that nearly a decade of strong bipartisan support for global health programs would continue. President Obama came out of the gate fast, launching the Global Health Initiative (GHI) within months of his inauguration. The GHI made some notable progress. It encouraged planning led by the countries it was formed to help, improved the health status of women and girls, and promoted changes to integrate health programs and strengthen capacity within those countries.

Outgoing secretary of state Hillary Clinton emphasized support for women and girls. Photo: PATH/Mike Wang.

But Congress has paid out only a little more than half of the funds needed to achieve the program’s bold goals. This has forced the administration to lower its targets, jeopardizing the future of global health programming and overall health gains. Continue reading

The Case for a Global NTD Initiative

As the 2011 World Health Summit approaches next week, the Global Network’s Managing Director Dr. Neeraj Mistry contributes another blogpost to the ONE Campaign Germany. Find the English version below:

By Dr. Neeraj Mistry, Managing Director, Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases

In my previous blog post, I identified neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) as some of the most common yet widely unrecognized diseases currently in the global health arena. NTDs have debilitating effects–impairing the health, economic development and education of the world’s poorest people, also known as the “bottom billion.” We call them neglected diseases because the 1.4 billion people who suffer from NTDs are often far from the houses and minds of people living in the developed world. It’s not all bad news, though. Not only are many of these diseases entirely treatable and preventable, but there have already been significant steps taken towards the control and elimination of NTDs.

Through the remarkable commitment of the United States, the United Kingdom and members of the G8, we have seen enormous gains in the treatment and prevention of NTDs around the world. The U.S. government’s commitment to eliminating NTDs has rapidly expanded in recent years. Through the establishment of USAID’s NTD program, the U.S. created a unique and extremely cost-effective public-private partnership that successfully facilitated the first large-scale efforts to integrate existing disease-specific treatment programs. Since its launch in 2006, the USAID NTD program, in partnership with the pharmaceutical industry, has expanded to countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas–improving the lives of more than 168 million people by delivering approximately 387 million NTD treatments, and training more than 200,000 community workers. Continue reading