Advancing global health through innovation

U.S. Reps. Ander Crenshaw and Adam Smith, co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance.

Across the globe, tens of millions of children’s lives have been saved with the delivery of medicines that cost less than a dollar per dose — thanks in large part to U.S. foreign aid. In rural Western Province, Kenya, Jane Wamalwa, a community health worker, regularly speaks to her neighbors about oral rehydration solution, a simple mixture of sugar, water and salt that was produced with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local partners and prevents deadly dehydration caused by diarrhea. Jane, who lost three children to severe diarrhea, now dedicates herself to raising awareness about simple solutions to keep children healthy — solutions made increasingly available through new oral rehydration corners in local clinics supported by the United States.

Additionally, U.S. investments in global health protect millions of people from malaria with insecticide-treated bed nets, effective treatments and innovative diagnostics. These targeted investments have lifesaving impacts, and they are also cost-effective! Our entire foreign assistance amounts to only about 1 percent of our overall budget. With this we are able to help the world’s poorest women and children.

As lawmakers and co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance, we have a fiscal responsibility to ensure that American dollars are being spent wisely and effectively. In that spirit, we believe in concentrating on what we do well and where we can have the greatest impact. Such opportunities are abundant in the field of global health. Already, our dollars have made an enormous impact. Thanks in large part to U.S. commitments, maternal and child mortality rates have dropped by almost half since 1990. This means that 17,000 fewer children die each day from preventable causes than did just over 20 years ago, and more mothers are living to celebrate their children’s birthdays.

Not only are investments in global health protecting the lives of people around the world, they are helping to keep Americans safe, too. U.S. investments in global health help stabilize economies, develop good will, and advance our own national security. At home, investments in global health research and development create jobs — an estimated 60 percent of U.S. funding for global health research and development directly benefits U.S.-based workers and businesses.

While we need to celebrate the significant progress the U.S. government and our partners have made, more needs to be done. In 2012 alone, 6.6 million children under the age of five died from mostly preventable causes, such as pneumonia, prematurity, birth complications, diarrhea and malaria. Today, newborn deaths make up a growing proportion of under-five mortality, with 1 million children dying the same day they are born. In many parts of the world, mothers are still dying from pregnancy and childbirth every day.

These tragedies represent an opportunity for our small foreign affairs budget to make a great impact on millions of families. We have many of the tools needed to end preventable deaths. New and promising innovations are also on the horizon, and we should invest in them. With 57 million women per year giving birth without help in areas where life-threatening infections are high, we need to support new technologies that ensure clean and safe deliveries that prevent postpartum hemorrhaging and avoid infections.

We also need to invest in new tools, vaccines and research to fight infectious diseases, such as malaria, so that countries have the resources to accelerate their efforts to stop transmission of the disease. Many of these research projects can be advanced in partnership with the private sector.

Congress can continue to help improve the lives of women, newborns and children in developing countries by maintaining our investments in cost-effective, high-impact solutions that have the power to end preventable deaths. Targeted investments in innovative programs save lives, create new allies and markets, and improve our national security. We look forward to working together with our colleagues to strengthen and improve these programs.

This story is part of Best Buys in Global Health, a campaign by PSI, PATH and Devex to highlight sound investments in global health. Find out more.

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