A Message to the US Congress: Do the Right Thing

Health worker and clients in Tanzania

Photo by Trevor Snapp for IntraHealth International

The Trump Administration’s FY2018 budget proposal and other proposed policies would leave us all vulnerable to health threats.

We at IntraHealth International are alarmed by the troubling signals sent by President Trump’s Administration this week, including the proposed budget for fiscal year 2018. We believe the proposal would lead to a deterioration of American leadership in global health and development and have a devastating impact on the health and security of people around the globe.

In the past week, the Administration has:

  • Proposed a 26% decrease in global health funding at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department of State, including the proposed complete elimination of funding for family planning;
  • Publicly released guidance for its expansion of the Global Gag Rule, which is expanded by 15 orders of magnitude and, for the first time, affects nearly all global health-related United States (US) government-funded programs—the result of which could leave millions of people around the world without access to the full range of essential reproductive health services as well as basic primary health care services;
  • Continued its review to reorganize and possibly eliminate global development federal agencies and programs, including USAID, which has played a vital independent role in leading America’s development and global health efforts for more than 50 years.

American leadership over the past few decades has been critical to moving the world toward the possibility of zero preventable maternal and child deaths, an AIDS-free generation, global health security, and global access to voluntary contraception and other essential medicines and supplies. The US also has spurred greater investments by other governments, foundations, and the private sector in these global health and development priorities. These drastic proposals would endanger the enormous progress made to date by dismantling evidence-based, lifesaving, and highly successful programs, which constitute far less than one percent of the federal budget.

Speaking from the World Health Assembly in Geneva, IntraHealth International president and CEO Pape Gaye said, “This week in Geneva, US Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has spoken on several occasions of America’s strong commitment to global health. But US policies and investments must match the rhetoric.”

As an organization that has partnered with the US government for more than 35 years to fight disease and improve global health, IntraHealth has seen firsthand the tremendous returns from US investments and leadership in global health.

The elimination of US support for family planning programs is particularly concerning. At an annual cost of only $25 per woman of reproductive age in the developing world—or $7 per person—family planning produces a return on investment of $150 for every dollar spent in improved health, productivity, environmental, and social impact. US assistance for family planning and reproductive health in FY2017 alone averted 8 million unintended pregnancies, 3.3 million abortions, and 15,000 maternal deaths by providing 26 million women with contraceptive services and supplies.

The US Congress and executive agencies have long recognized the impact of investments in global health and frontline health workers, and we call on them now to be steadfast in their dedication to helping those in need and investing in the safety of our future.

“We call on Congress to adopt a budget that includes continued robust support for global health, including family planning, and to reject harmful policy proposals made thus far by the Administration,” said Laura Hoemeke, IntraHealth’s director of communications and advocacy and co-chair of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition Steering Committee. “The evidence has never been clearer of the tremendous humanitarian, economic, and gender empowerment returns on investing in health and health employment. American leadership on the world stage and millions of lives—including lives of Americans—are at stake.”