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News flash: Global health continues to stagnate under Obama

The Kaiser Family Foundation yesterday held a briefing on the Obama Administration’s ‘new’ approach to global health featuring, as keynote speaker, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius.

Nothing much of substance seems to have happened, which some will say is in keeping with the Obama Administration’s strategy for global health. Sibelius claimed that the U.S. has always been and is today a leader in the fight against diseases of poverty, quoting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

“At a time when people are raising questions about America’s role in the world, our leadership in global health reminds them who we are and what we do.”

True enough. America has been a leader in many aspects of global health, such as the fight against AIDS and malaria. But none of that lead was established by the Obama Administration. It was mostly President George W. Bush’s leadership (especially on AIDS in Africa) — and to a great extent a small, private operation based in Seattle run by a software tycoon — which gave us the lead.

The Obama Administration, as documented in this excellent series of articles (also funded by Kaiser) in GlobalPost called Healing the World, hasn’t really accomplished much of anything … besides a lot of talk, new reports and announced ‘new’ shifts in strategy.

You can see for yourself, if you want to watch Kaiser’s video of the two-hour Beltway confab:

Two news organizations tried to cover the Kaiser event but I don’t know what they said since both, Congressional Quarterly and Politico Pro, are hidden behind a subscriber paywall. Kaiser quoted from one of the reports, by CQ’s Rebecca Adams:

“The strategy identifies 10 major objectives but does not include metrics for gauging success,” the news service writes, adding Sebelius “said the plan ‘does not represent a radical new direction but seeks to provide a focus to ongoing efforts.”

That doesn’t really sound new, or maybe even like much of a strategy. Most folks seem to have stopped paying much attention to the Obama Administration’s global health strategy — because it seems like mostly just rhetoric with no new funding and little in the way of substantive action.



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.