Global health researchers say global health research is critical

News analysis

That’s the gist of it anyway.

On Tuesday, a group of some 40 global health organizations that calls itself the Global Health Technologies Coalition issued a report that found global health technologies “are among the best investments US policymakers can make” and warned that budget cuts to global health threaten to undermine progress made to date — and also will threaten lives worldwide.

I’d generally agree with this, and have written plenty here on Humanosphere about the threat federal budget cuts pose to the global fight against AIDS, malaria and other diseases of poverty. But is it really about making the case for research, for new technologies?

I wonder how convincing it will be for these organizations that want more money for their particular projects to be issuing a ‘study’ that discovers what they do is incredibly important and invaluable. Unlike the American biomedical industry — which does the same kind of lobbying — these are not research projects aimed at addressing our problems.

This new advocacy group is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and “housed” at PATH, both of which are often criticized for taking too much of a ‘techno-fix’ approach to global health.

Global health research ideally is aimed at finding better ways to fight diseases many Americans either haven’t heard of or don’t think is their problem. This is, or should be, ultimately about fighting poverty and helping the poor overseas.

Perhaps the case that needs to be made is more fundamental than just clamoring for more funding of research.

Here are some media reports based on the coalition’s event in Washington, D.C., yesterday:

GlobalPost US Senator on global health – ‘Achievable stuff’

SciDev US Congress urged not to cut global health funding

PATH even enlisted noted global health and science advocate Whoopi Goldberg to help make the case in this video presentation:


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.

  • Orin Levine

    Tom, good headline but it takes the easy way out. i think that it is your role to question influence and you rightly point out that this is a ‘guild’ promulgating its own work, but don’t you think that it is more fair to question the basis for the assertions that GH research is valuable than to take the easy way out and just say the conclusion is because of the funding. i think that you should be pushing them to illustrate how GH research helps and examining if the basis for those statements is accurate. if they don’t hold up to the scrutiny then you’ve got a basis for questioning the rest.

    • Tom Paulson

      Thanks Orin,
      I admit to usually trying to take the easy way out. Your point is a good one, but perhaps misses my point. I am not inclined to question the assertion that global health research, in general, is valuable. That would be silly. Of course it is valuable, if it targets the right problems and comes up with good solutions.

      My point is that the global health budget is at risk of being cut for more fundamental reasons. Congress, and much of America, doesn’t need to be convinced of the value of science and technology. We’re all big believers in that.

      What the global health community should be making the case for is why we should give a damn about poverty overseas. These are fundamentally diseases of poverty in poor countries and fighting them means fighting poverty overseas.

      That ain’t a technological barrier.