Last evening, I had the great pleasure and opportunity to attend a really interesting session at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. The HKS is currently hosting a week long “crash course” for all newly elected members of congress. The session I attended brought together leading experts on global health issues to speak to them about global health and its relevance to them as new members of the United States congress.

Why should they care about global health issues? How much do they even know about global health issues? What would you tell them about global health?

The speakers, most from the Harvard School of Public Health but also from the Gates Foundation, spoke mainly about the US government’s moral or ethical obligation to contribute to global health and also about the idea that protecting global health is a global public good and benefits the economy and well being of all nations on the planet.

The world is moving into a global recession, and the US will most certainly face a major economic downturn in the coming years. Add on top of that a strong mandate to improve health insurance coverage within the US, and you have a situation where it may be really hard for these new members to prioritize health issues overseas.

I thought the most practical suggestion came in response to a question from the audience where one of the speakers suggested that one big change in the new administration could be to coordinate and learn more from other major global health initiatives. I agree strongly with this idea, and it is the kind of change that does not even cost any more money.

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