Presidential Hopefuls and Global Health

On August 19, 2008, in global health, United States, by Karen Grepin

In a recent article in the Lancet, author Nellie Bristol reviews the differences in the presidential campaign platforms of John McCain and Barack Obama. As a disenfranchised immigrant in the United States, I tend to remain relatively oblivious on US politics, in particular during presidential campaigns. In Canada, national elections are frequently called out of the blue and are over in less time than it takes a beaver to build a new dam. Perhaps they’ll show some ads during hockey night in Canada, but it rarely captivates national attention as it does in the United States. Here, it seems like there is always someone campaigning for something. I frequently get asked at dinner parties what my thoughts are on the US health care policy, and I feel like such a sham when I have to rely on the few sound bites I have heard discussed among classmates.

However, I must admit that I have caught a bit of the Obamamania going around. I have always felt a bit of disappointment on US foreign policy, in particular as it pertains to global health issues. Obama does appear to be the leading candidate on this front: he seems to understand that going at it alone will not solve the problem and that he seems more eager to accept views more popular in Europe and other donors on issues relating to sexuality and pharmaceutical procurement. What I am perhaps most excited about is a view that Obama seems to share that tackling global health does not equal tackling HIV/AIDS in an emergency response framework. Health systems needs to be strengthened before any progress can be made on global health. These types of improvements are not going to come overnight and they are not going to be nearly as sexy as simply putting millions of people on treatment. Long-term support to countries will be required.

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