Global Health is not just a foreign problem
July 22, 2009
Global health may seem a distant problem from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and my constituents, but I assure you it is not. Quite the contrary.
We face at home and abroad the shared challenges of infectious diseases - HIV, drug resistant tuberculosis, and now H1N1 pandemic flu.
We jointly face chronic diseases - diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disorders -- that if not managed correctly, through efficient, cost-effective health systems, can lead to premature death and enormous costs to our economy.
Here, in Minnesota, my constituency includes families from Somalia, Liberia, Laos and other countries who have, themselves, struggled with poverty, neglect, conflict, poor health services and terrible health outcomes. The difficult and complex health realities that people face in the Horn of Africa and South East Asia are not alien to me and many of my neighbors who still have family ties to their homelands of origin.
My point in arguing this case: global health is not ‘over there.' It is a vital communal dimension of our shared humanity. Whether in the United States, or abroad, poverty and poor health breed instability, conflict and unproductive societies.
That is the reason I have joined the CSIS Commission on Global Health. I have also done so because of a few other important, strongly held convictions.
We need to put a special focus in our global health approaches upon mental health. I have seen in both Gaza and Israel the grave damaging effects of conflict on the mental well-being of adults and children. These traumas - nightmares, bedwetting, hypersensitivity to sound and light, phobias -- have cruel long-term consequences if not addressed systematically.
As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I have a responsibility to review our foreign assistance approaches, and I know we must do better: to make our global health programs more efficient, transparent, measurable and accountable; and to integrate them more effectively into the long-term development of communities. My expectation is that the Commission will generate concrete actionable ideas in these areas.
As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, I am acutely aware of how the economic downturn, at home and globally, can lead to disinvestment in health care assistance. We have to safeguard against that. We must envision long-term solutions, and shield against short-term (and poor) decision-making.
I thank you for your interest in the Commission; hope you will stay engaged, and look forward to hearing your thoughts.