Category Archives: Politics

To Helminth It – Let’s Go to D.C.

The END7 campaign awarded scholarships to three outstanding student leaders to attend the second annual END7 Student Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. Read scholarship winner Cyrus Ghaznavi’s reflection on his experience in D.C.:

By Cyrus Ghaznavi, Rice University

Nearly a year after the first ever END7 Advocacy Day in April of 2015, I was back on a plane headed nonstop to Reagan National Airport. The second annual Advocacy Day was less than 24 hours away!

Over the past year, Rice University’s chapter of END7 has grown significantly. Our general membership and committees have expanded and awareness of our cause on campus has blossomed. We have hosted trivia nights, fundraisers, Super Smash Bros video game tournaments, petition drives, and much more. Consequently, what once started as a relatively obscure club on campus has now gained significant traction within the Rice community.

Bera office

Cyrus (far right) and his group meet with Representative Ami Bera of California on the second annual END7 Student Advocacy Day.

However, though we have worked extensively to advocate for NTDs “inside the hedges,” the Rice chapter of END7 strongly believes that official policy change is needed to successfully control and eliminate the seven most common NTDs. In fact, our mission states that “END7 at Rice is an organization that strives to raise awareness…for our mission with local and national policymakers.” And so, when I was faced with the question of whether or not to attend the second annual END7 Advocacy Day, it was a no-brainer.

The momentous day was kicked off by Senator Roger Wicker, co-chair of the Senate Caucus on Malaria and NTDs, who had invited the END7 group to morning coffee. After socializing and meeting our morning coffee quota, we took pictures with the Senator, who explained that NTDs are an issue very near and dear to his heart. After coffee, we were welcomed by Dr. Neeraj Mistry, Managing Director of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases. We were then presented with informative presentations by representatives from the U.S. Agency for International Development, RTI International, and Helen Keller International, before grabbing lunch in our small groups.

Last year, I had the pleasure of working with Kathryn McGrath, who works with END7 as a member of the Global Network staff, as the leader of my small group. Perhaps not coincidentally, she was my group’s leader again, so we immediately had a dynamic and strategy for how to pitch our case to the four House Representatives we would be meeting that day. Working with my teammates Antonia, also from Rice University, and Elaine, from the University of Texas at Dallas, we devised a division of labor as to which points we would each hit in our meetings with staff.

Kathryn started each meeting with a brief introduction to END7, after which Elaine jumped in by sharing some of USAID’s most persuasive statistics. One of every six people globally suffers from one of the seven most common NTDs. For every $1 invested into the program, $26 worth of donated pharmaceuticals are leveraged. For a mere $0.50, an at-risk individual can be treated and protected from the seven most common NTDs for a year. So far, 1.4 billion treatments have been distributed to almost 700 million individuals. Antonia would then shift gears and relay some of the more human, emotional aspects of the program and NTDs. She mentioned that children miss school and parents miss work when infected, reinforcing the cycle of poverty. She went over some of the disfiguring and debilitating symptoms of these seven diseases, and wrapped up by talking about the stigma associated with them. At this point, I pounced by synthesizing what those before me had mentioned. I asked if the Representative would support increasing USAID NTD funding by 25 percent instead of allowing it to be cut by 13.5 percent. Additionally, I implored the staffers to encourage their Representatives to join the Congressional Caucus on Malaria and NTDs, if they were not members already. “This is not the time to lose momentum – USAID funding is critical during this watershed time,” we would conclude.

We had four successful meetings with Representative staffers, and even got to meet one of the Representatives in person: Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), with whom we briefly chatted and took some pictures! He was a very unique case, given that he has an M.D. and can thus see NTDs from both a medical and political standpoint. As a pre-medical student studying both biology and policy, I felt that my interaction with Rep. Bera was particularly meaningful – especially since my group also visited his office during the 2015 END7 Student Advocacy Day!

At the end of the day, we all attended a reception where Barbara Bush, CEO and co-founder of Global Health Corps, and Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, spoke to the END7 advocates. Ms. Bush’s speech was truly moving and inspiring, urging us to global health action. Dr. Hotez recounted the beginnings of END7 and the USAID campaign, putting all of our advocacy into a unique, historical context.

And before I knew it, the day was over. As a group of nearly 50 students and leaders, we had spoken to almost 40 congressmen/women or their staff. Our pitches were not partisan, nor were they communicated out of self-interest: we were all passionate voices in the realm of NTDs, and we were all thrilled to be in the Capital.

Speaking for Rice, I cannot express how proud I am of the growth and commitment I have seen in just one year’s time. Last year, three students, including myself, attended this trip. This year, we had almost 20, comprising the large plurality of the advocates who attended (even compared to the schools in Washington)! I can only imagine how much more growth we will see in the coming years. Here’s to counting down to next year’s advocacy day!

Barbara Bush with student advocates from Rice University at the END7 Student Advocacy Day closing reception.

Barbara Bush with student advocates from Rice University at the END7 Student Advocacy Day closing reception.

Cyrus Ghaznavi is a junior at Rice University studying Biological Sciences & Policy Studies. He represents Rice on the END7 Campus Leaders Council and participated in the END7 Student Advocacy Day in 2015 and 2016.

Barbara Bush to Keynote 2016 END7 Student Advocacy Day

Barbara Bush social media announcement

We are excited to announce that Barbara Bush will give the keynote address at the second annual END7 Student Advocacy Day on Tuesday, March 1. Ms. Bush is the CEO and co-founder of Global Health Corps (GHC). GHC is a leadership development organization focused on building the next generation of global health leaders. GHC competitively recruits highly talented 21 to 30-year-olds from across sectors, geographies, and backgrounds and through a yearlong paid fellowship places them in high-impact positions with organizations on the front lines of global health equity in Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, the United States, and Zambia.

Ms. Bush has previously worked and traveled with the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Capetown, South Africa, UNICEF in Botswana, and the UN World Food Programme. Ms. Bush is a member of UNICEF’s Next Generation Steering Committee and is on the Board of Directors of Covenant House International, PSI, Friends of the Global Fight for AIDS, TB, and Malaria, and the UN’s Global Entrepreneurship Council. She is a Draper Richards Foundation Social Entrepreneur, a World Economic Forum Young Global Shaper, and a fellow of the Echoing Green Foundation. She was named one of Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year in 2011 and one of Newsweek’s Women of Impact in 2013. Ms. Bush graduated from Yale University with a degree in Humanities in 2004.

President George W. Bush launched the United States Agency for International Development’s Neglected Tropical Disease Program in 2006. The Program has since delivered more than 1.3 billion NTD treatments in 32 countries.  At the END7 Student Advocacy Day closing reception in the Longworth House Office Building, Ms. Bush will share a reflection on shaping the next generation of global health leaders. We are honored to have her join us and meet END7 student leaders from across the United States after they meet with their representatives in Congress to advocate for funding for the USAID NTD Program.

RSVP now for the 2016 END7 Student Advocacy Day at All U.S.-based undergraduate and graduate students are invited to attend. See photos from the 2015 END7 Student Advocacy Day on Facebook.

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

Innovation to Fund Global Health

Last Friday, The Hill’s Congress Blog highlighted the innovative ways governments, NGO’s and the private sector are using to aid for global health. Programs like the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and The Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria are not only ensuring that health interventions are getting to the people that need them most, they are helping to promote market growth and drive down prices.

Here’s an excerpt on public-private partnerships from the blog:

“Millions of lives are saved today in developing countries because of bold, innovative financing arrangements over last 10 years. These financing mechanisms are good examples of private sector partnership with public sector for common good.

These financing initiatives have pooled large public sector funding with private sector resources, thus allowing tax payers funds to have much larger impact than would otherwise be possible. Some of the examples are given below.”

USAID’s Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Program is one such collaboration. In a press statement released last fall, Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez, Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Global Health Bureau, states:

“To date, USAID’s NTD program is the largest public-private partnership collaboration in our 50 year history. Over the past six years, USAID has leveraged over $3 billion in donated medicines reflecting one of the most cost effective public health programs. Because of this support, we are beginning to document control and elimination of these diseases in our focus countries and we are on track to meet the 2020 goals.”

To read more about NTDs in national and international public policy, visit the policy section at

You can also read about how Sabin in helping countries create sustainable access to immunization financing here.