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5 Reasons Global Health Programs Should ‘Be Spared The Chopping Block’

“President Obama and his GOP challenger Mitt Romney have both prioritized deficit reduction, which, of course, is a worthy goal,” former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), chair of the non-profit Hope Through Healing Hands, writes in an opinion piece in The Week. “[M]any surveys put global health at the top of the list of things to slash. That’s a mistake,” he continues and lists five reasons why global health programs “ought to be spared the chopping block.”

First, Frist says that “[g]lobal health initiatives save lives abroad” and notes that “[PEPFAR] has directly saved millions of lives, put kids back in school, and helped rescue entire societies from collapse over the past eight years.” Second, these programs “protect U.S. families” by preventing the spread of disease across U.S. borders, he writes. Third, health programs “enhance national security” and “fuel the smart power of health diplomacy,” he says, noting that “Kaiser Family Foundation surveys have repeatedly revealed that more than half the public thinks U.S. spending on health in developing countries is helpful for U.S. diplomacy (59 percent) and for improving America’s image in the countries receiving aid (56 percent).” Fourth, Frist writes that global health initiatives are cost-effective and cites several examples of the declining or already low costs of treatment and prevention for some diseases. Finally, he says the “initiatives are simply the right thing to do,” as “[l]ifting others up no matter where they live is part of what makes us American.” He notes that “[n]early half (46 percent) [of Americans] say this is the most important reason for the U.S. to invest in global health.” Frist concludes, “Yes, out of control entitlement spending and a deep recession have put everything on the chopping block. But let’s be smart about where we cut and where we don’t” (4/24).