Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, speaks at CSIS on the Global Health Initiative
July 2, 2010
Written by Elizabeth M. Cohen
Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), came to CSIS yesterday afternoon to discuss the Obama administration’s global health strategy. After his remarks, Dr. Shah took questions from an audience of a few hundred health and development experts and professionals.
Dr. Shah described past U.S. efforts in global health and outlined the goals of the administration’s Global Health Initiative (GHI), arguing throughout for the importance of smart global health policy. “Health,” he said, “is at the heart of human progress.”
GHI, Dr. Shah explained, builds upon the success of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). PEPFAR is recognized as the largest effort ever by one country to alleviate a single disease. Looking to broaden that mission with GHI, the administration has pledged $63 billion to global health programs over the next six years.
Dr. Shah said that GHI aims to improve health outcomes while sustaining the gains made by PEPFAR, the President’s Malaria Initiative, and other programs. Sustainable efforts will be key to strengthening health systems in developing countries. These systems, argued the Administrator, require a shift from a focus on diseases to a focus on patients. In part, this means integrating nutrition, family planning, and maternal and child health into U.S. programs on HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria. As this new strategy unfolds, he explained, GHI will be evidence-based, determining what does and does not produce results.
His talk identified the importance of country ownership. Strengthening a host country’s health system, he argued, can help us shine the light of health services everywhere, across diseases and issues. A sustainable program must form healthy partnerships in its host country rather than creating a new, parallel health system. USAID procurement reform, he added, will promote local capabilities.
In response to concern that the recent G-8 summit did not go far enough on maternal and child health, Dr. Shah was confident that the meeting this year made important strides in ending “smoke and mirrors” around donor countries’ compliance with their commitments.
Dr. Shah ended his Q&A with the audience on an optimistic note, reminding us that the American public cares about global health and is eager to remain involved. “Don’t underestimate what can be done right now,” he said.