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Capacity, partnerships cited as key to global health

May - June, 2009 | Volume 8, Issue 3

Cover of the Institute of Medicine report, The U.S. Commitment to Global Health

The Institute of Medicine report on global health, in addition to calling for stronger U.S. leadership and a $15 billion financial commitment by 2012, recommended that the government and private organizations invest in building research capacity in low- and middle-income countries.

"Neither the U.S. government nor any one U.S. organization can achieve global health by acting alone," said the panel headed by former NIH Director and Nobelist Dr. Harold Varmus and Thomas R. Pickering, former American ambassador to the United Nations, Russia, India, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria and Jordan.

"Progress toward this goal requires the collaboration of all countries, donors and recipients of aid to develop, finance and deliver essential and cost-effective health interventions," it said. "The United States can, however, lead by setting an example of meaningful financial commitments, technical excellence and respectful partnership."

The report, The U.S. Commitment to Global Health: Recommendations for Public and Private Sectors, is a follow-up to a similar survey 12 years ago.

The IOM identified five areas for U.S. action:

  • Scale up existing interventions to achieve significant health gains.
  • Generate and share knowledge to address health problems endemic to the global poor.
  • Invest in people, institutions and capacity building with global partners.
  • Increase U.S. financial commitments to global health.
  • Set the example of engaging in respectful partnerships.

Fogarty was instrumental in providing the impetus for the report, which noted the Center's role in working toward those goals through its model AIDS International Training and Research Program and new Millennium Promise Awards to combat chronic disease in developing countries.

"The program uses several scientific, political and economic strategies to encourage scientists to return to their home countries after training," the document stated. "By focusing on research that is responsive to priorities in the home country—and maximizing the amount of training conducted there—trainees are better equipped to find jobs or funding in their home countries once training is complete."

Among many of its recommendations, the report called for strengthening health systems in poor countries and making U.S. government programs "less formulaic and more performance-based" and less focused on single diseases. It also suggested better efforts to control disease "by adapting existing knowledge for resource-limited settings."

"This report affirms what we have set out in our strategic plan, namely addressing chronic disease burdens through training, fostering implementation research, helping build sustainable research capacity and partnering with foreign institutions and the private sector," said Fogarty Director Dr. Roger I. Glass.

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