GLOBAL HEALTH COUNCIL: US advocates call on President Obama to champion family health
30 JANUARY 2009 | GENEVA - With President Barack Obama now in the White House, U.S. health advocates are wasting no time in urging his new administration to strengthen its commitment to global family health.
A proposed Family Health Action Plan is one of the priority recommendations directed to the Obama government team by the Washington-based Global Health Council. The Council is calling on the U.S. government to allocate US $13.2 billion for global health efforts in 2010, including funding for maternal and child health, reproductive health, infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS. The Global Health Council, the world's largest membership alliance dedicated to saving lives by improving health throughout the world, brings together more than 550 organizations and 5,000 individual members.
"The Council is very excited about the prospect of working constructively with the Obama Administration and the new Congress" said Maurice Middleberg, the Global Health Council's Executive Vice President. "We are very gratified at having supported our members in developing a unified message for maternal and newborn health that has attracted widespread support. What is most needed now is a U.S. Global Family Health Action Plan that will drastically reduce deaths among women and young children in the developing world."
Over 10 million women and children still die each year from causes which are largely preventable and treatable. The majority of maternal and child deaths occur in Africa and South Asia, with sub-Saharan Africa increasingly bearing the global burden of mortality. Despite impressive gains in preventing childhood diseases, critical health care is still failing to each most women and children in high mortality countries according to the 2008 report of the Countdown to 2015: Tracking Progress in Maternal, Newborn & Child Health initiative.
In a related advocacy drive, U.S. maternal health organizations convened by the Global Health Council issued a statement calling on President Obama and the U.S. government to allocate US $1.3 billion in 2010 for maternal and newborn health and an additional US $1 billion for family planning programmes. The statement is endorsed by more than 250 domestic and international organizations, including Family Care International, CARE , and the White Ribbon Alliance.
"This is the first real maternal health coalition we’ve built in the U.S., and it’s also the first time we’ve pulled together as a community to ask the U.S. government for increased funding, “ said Ann Starrs, President of Family Care International. “U.S. policy is crucial to any solution for maternal mortality. It’s important that we make our unique voice heard, at this time when America seems ready for real change.”
U.S. global health advocates are framing their push for a Global Family Action Plan within a broader context. Citing the current U.S. "pastiche of programs and policies", the Global Health Council statement asks the Obama administration to work towards a comprehensive, evidence-based global health policy framework and make immediate changes to a range of current U.S. policies.
In his first week in office, President Obama has already instituted two policy changes prioritized by the global health community - the repeal of the prohibitions put in place by the Bush administration on funding to international family-planning organizations, and a commitment to work with Congress to restore funding for UNFPA, the UN Population Fund.