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US underfunding crucial global health research and development, warns group | 

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Steve Snodgrass

As global health funding remains largely stagnant, more groups are trying to get a bigger piece of the US budgetary pie. For their part, research and development supporters wants a bigger slice, or at least for theirs to stay the same size.

A report by the Global Health Technologies Coalition warns that the political wrangling over federal budgets in Washington DC are putting crucial global health research and development at risk.

The coalition, made up of some 30+ NGOs, says funding for research and development has eroded over the past few years. Making proper investments means not only that new lifesaving developments in areas like TB, AIDS and maternal health can be made, it also represents a significant boost to the US.

“The investment we have made in research to date has contributed to major public health successes, but there is no guarantee that the gains we have made today will work tomorrow,” said Kaitlin Christenson, MPH, director of the GHTC, to Humanosphere.

Christenson argues that investing in research and development is one that will benefit people around the world, as well as Americans. It taps into the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans. The report, Innovation for a changing world: The role of US leadership in global health R&D, says that existing investments have helped to create 7 million jobs and contributes $69 billion to the US GDP each year.

“The investment in innovation resonates with American character, that helps support domestic improvements, economic growth and our diplomatic goals,” she said.

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USAID takes another forward step on budget transparency | 

Raj Shah
Raj Shah

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Raj Shah announced that the US Foreign Assistance Dashboard was not only updated, but it included 53,000 financial transactions from the first three quarters of fiscal year 2013. It builds off an executive order signed by President Obama to make government information open and machine readable.

“Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing,” said President Obama in a memorandum.

The announcement is a significant forward step for transparency at USAID. The dashboard was created early in the Obama administration to much fanfare, but there were complaints that it was hard to access, data was sparse and it was not published in accordance with International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standards. Changes come ahead of the deadline Publish What You Fund’s 2013 Aid Transparency Index and they should lead to improved marks over 2012.

“Never before has our Agency published spending data so comprehensively and so soon after the close of the quarter,” said Shah in a blog post about the release.

“Our commitment to transparency has not only helped strengthen accountability and improve communication; it has also had a direct impact on the way we work every day.” Continue reading

Five Things To Know About the White House Foreign Aid Budget Proposal | 

tumblr_lth6cvIy6L1r3sjono1_400If you remember how a bill becomes a law from your Schoolhouse Rock days, you already know that the the White House proposal is just that, a proposal. The real work is getting agreement in the House and Senate to get a bill that lands on the desk of the President. If all goes well, President Obama signs that budget. The problem here is that the House and Senate are led by opposing parties with different ideas on how to deal with the financial troubles that face the United States.

The usual order of things goes that the President sends recommendations to the congressional bodies and then they hammer out the details. This time it is the other way around.

This proposal comes two months later than expected. It offers plenty to snack on, but below are five highlights – the good, the bad, the ugly and the rest. Continue reading

Foreign aid cuts popular in budget battle, but not much there to cut | 

USAID

Federal categories of spending, 2010

As President Obama and Congress tussle over how best to cut the federal deficit many are worried about the size of their slice of the federal budget pie.

Cutting foreign aid seems to be a popular idea with many Americans, probably because they believe we spend a lot of money on foreign aid. As the pie chart off to the right there demonstrates, which can be explored in greater depth at USAID’s Foreign Assistance Dashboard, we don’t.

Foreign aid is about one percent of the budget. Continue reading