Washington, DC – The COVID-19 pandemic is creating extraordinary challenges to not only health care systems and public health infrastructures worldwide but to global health security. This pandemic, along with a broader economic crisis, could devastate countries in Africa, Latin America, and South Asia, and set back years of U.S.-led prevention efforts for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases around the world. To address these challenges, the Bipartisan Policy Center is releasing a new report, U.S. Leadership in The COVID-19 Pandemic Response: Global Health is U.S. Health, that calls on Congress to allocate additional funding to the next supplemental package to support vulnerable countries and offers recommendations on ways to reduce the current and future threats to America.
“An uncontrolled COVID-19 outbreak anywhere in the world is a threat to U.S. health,” said former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D., a BPC senior fellow. “Any retreat from continued U.S. leadership in global health would be shortsighted. Investments in the well-being of others pay not just in humanitarian dividends but strategic dividends. Strengthening global health enhances U.S. health security.”
The Global Health Security Index, a comprehensive assessment of global health security capabilities in 195 countries, found that 71% of low-income countries and 37% of middle-income countries earned the lowest rating of “least prepared” for a pandemic. Initial reports reveal emerging gaps related to the prevention, detection, and response to COVID-19 across Africa.
“Without adequate detection, prevention, and response, the global consequences of COVID-19 could be catastrophic,” said former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a BPC co-founder. “Making a greater investment in the international response is not only the morally right thing to do, but will improve global health outcomes, build greater goodwill with partner nations, bolster international stability, and promote American prosperity—each important elements of strategic health diplomacy.”
BPC’s report strongly recommends that U.S. lawmakers use the current policy window to further support the global response to the pandemic. While the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act and the CARES Act designated nearly $3 billion for the international response through the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of State, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BPC believes this allocation is not nearly enough to support vulnerable countries around the world.
The report emphasizes that U.S. policymakers should align the global health response based on a set of principles that would assist the most vulnerable, protect liberties, support science-based public health approaches, build on the strengths of existing platforms, promote sustainability, and project U.S. values and strategic health diplomacy.
Strategic health diplomacy is a concept BPC defined in its 2015 study as the “idea that national governments do good by actively working to improve public health abroad and, by doing so, may also further their own foreign policy.” It’s the recognition that global health programs can and should be a critical component in America’s national security toolbox.
Additionally, BPC recommends that investments should be well coordinated through the White House National Security Council and that funding for the World Health Organization should not be frozen, but rather restored to help control further spread of the coronavirus around the world.