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Home > News > Global Health Matters > Global Health Matters Jan/Feb 2021 > Opinion: Hoping for a healthier and more equitable future Print

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Hoping for a healthier and more equitable future

January / February 2021 | Volume 20 Number 1

Fogarty Director Dr. Roger Glass receives a covid vaccine from a healthcare worker at a vaccine clinic.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Roger I. Glass

The vaccines against COVID-19 provide hope the pandemic
can be tamed. Fogarty Director Dr. Roger I. Glass receives the
COVID-19 vaccine.

Opinion by Fogarty Director Dr Roger I Glass

As I take stock at the beginning of a new year and a new U.S. administration, I am hopeful that we are on our way toward reducing COVID-19’s terrible toll and entering a period of healing and reconciliation.

We have all been touched by the pandemic and grieve for those we have lost, and those who continue to suffer. But I believe we are resilient and that there is some cause for optimism. In record time, we have seen the development of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments that are much needed if we are to bring this awful pandemic under control. It is difficult to comprehend the horrendous death toll - well over 2 million lives lost and rising. But the investments made to develop vaccines and affordable, speedy diagnostics are beginning to pay off, thanks to the hard work and dedication of NIH and extramural scientists.

In early January, it was shocking to watch the violent attack on our nation’s Capitol, the heart of our democracy. But I was heartened to witness the peaceful transfer of power two weeks later and the return to what I hope will be a government where science is valued and supported, and data and evidence play a role in decision making. It is also encouraging to see the U.S. is reclaiming its role in the global community, rejoining the Paris climate accord, honoring commitments and working in partnership with the WHO, and expressing renewed interest in collaborating with African nations to advance discoveries and improve health for all. I was delighted that the contributions of NIH are valued by the new Administration and that Dr. Francis S. Collins will remain NIH director and Dr. Tony Fauci has been invited to advise on COVID-19. I’m grateful for their continued strong leadership and deep support for global health research and training.

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the inequities in our health systems - both at home and abroad. There is much hard work ahead for all of us. It is imperative that we dig deeper into the fundamental causes of disparities to understand contributing factors and identify possible effective interventions. At Fogarty, we are examining how we can improve diversity among our staff and in the global health research workforce. We continue to consider how we can support efforts to decolonize and democratize global health research and have begun informal consultations with members of our community to determine what Fogarty can do to be part of the solution. It is a complex problem but I am encouraged by the enthusiastic response from our constituents and the creative ideas that have been suggested already. I welcome your thoughts and will depend on your support as we move forward with this endeavor.

I’m also excited that the NIH Common Fund initiative to build data science in Africa has received such a robust response and look forward to awards being issued later this year. There is tremendous potential for this program that was developed to meet the need for data analysis expertise in Africa, which was requested by African scientists and will be African-led.

I remain inspired by the Fogarty staff and my NIH colleagues as we continue to navigate this largely virtual world. I look forward to the day we can again travel the globe, strengthening our existing connections and forming new partnerships. In the meantime, NIH offers us all a beacon of hope.

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