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Opinion: An ‘Integrated Approach’ To U.S. Global Health Aid; G8 Agriculture Investment

Global Health Aid Should Take An ‘Integrated Approach’

“As the health care reform debate unfolds domestically, we face an opportune moment to recalculate for the better how we maximize the success of our efforts abroad to strengthen global health,” Bill Frist, former U.S. Senate Majority leader and current member of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) Board of Directors, writes in a Houston Chronicle opinion piece. Frist continues, “Global health is as much about putting health infrastructure in place as it is improving the physical infrastructure (roads and water systems) and the institutional capacity (sound policies and training) developing countries need to keep their citizens healthy. We need it all. This integrated approach is the surest way to sustainably improve the alarming state of global health, where 9 million children die before their fifth birthday or one in every 250 mothers die giving birth.”

Frist looks at the “holistic approach” taken by the MCC: “It funds country-determined anti-poverty projects that view healthy, productive societies as vital to sustainable economic development,” noting that it is “cost-effective” to channel development aid “to address the core causes of poor global health and prevent the reoccurrence of the symptoms.” Frist adds, “And, during these tough economic times, it makes supreme sense to stretch the value of every U.S. dollar invested in global health in this accountable way” (7/30).

Agriculture Investment, Innovation Needs Acceleration

The G8’s pledge of $20 billion over three years for farm-investment aid is a “giant step forward,” writes Texas A&M University Professor Norman Bourlag, who won the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to the world food supply, in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. According to Bourlag, farmers who have the “right tools” have shown an “uncanny ability to feed themselves and others, and to ignite the economic engine that will reverse the cycle of chronic poverty,” which “offers a chance for greater political stability in their countries as well.”

Investments like the one announced at the recent G8 summit “will most likely help to place current tools—like fertilizer and hybrid seeds that have been used for decades in the developed world—into the hands of small-holder farmers in remote places like Africa with the potential for noted and measured impact,” he writes. But in order for investments to “continue to motivate new and novel discoveries” governments must make their decisions about access to new technologies “on the basis of science, and not to further political agendas,” according to Bourlag. Civilization cannot continue to survive “without an adequate food supply,” he writes, concluding that the future generations “will not evolve without accelerating the pace of investment and innovation in agriculture production” (Bourlag, 7/31).