Half a century after the United States led a global expansion of international efforts to combat infectious disease and promote family planning, the Trump administration has embarked on a historic retrenchment that many fear threatens the health of millions and jeopardizes America's standing in the world. Since taking office, President Trump has proposed dramatic cuts to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has historically spearheaded U.S. efforts to improve women's and children's health. The White House is urging reductions this year to major international heath initiatives, including the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, which provides life-saving medicines to millions of AIDS patients in developing nations. The Trump administration has imposed tough new restrictions on U.S. support for aid organizations that provide family planning and other health services. And last week, the White House announced it is cutting all U.S. contributions to the United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA, the lead international agency dedicated to promoting family planning and child and maternal health.
Developing a vaccine or a treatment for a newly discovered virus is a painstakingly slow and detailed endeavor. Finding a compound that works, testing it in animals, and then rolling it out to clinical trials in humans can take years. And even the top experts in virology and epidemiology typically toil in obscurity, spending long, lonely hours in the lab and garnering fleeting interest only when an unknown ailment sparks headlines. The novel coronavirus has changed all that. "I've got 57 million things to do at once," says Sarah Gilbert, an Oxford University researcher who devised a vaccine considered one of the front-runners to stop the outbreak. Like other leading lights in the battle to contain COVID-19, she's short on sleep and time as she cobbles together funding and fields calls on how to quickly get the vaccine into production. Gilbert is one of the heroes of the current crisis, scientists who are racing against a virus that's sparking fear and havoc across the globe.
Healthy populations translate into productive and stable nations. Universal health care (UHC) is a pragmatic and ethical ideal that, thanks to social and economic progress, seems almost achievable. However, UHC means different things in different contexts. The minimum ideal is that no individual or family should suffer financial hardship because of accessing good-quality medical assistance. Bloom et al. review health priorities around the world and what will be needed in terms of skills, funds, and technology to achieve health care access for all. The September 1978 Alma-Ata Declaration is a landmark event in the history of global health. The declaration raised awareness of "health for all" as a universal human right, whose fulfillment reduces human misery and suffering, advances equality, and safeguards human dignity. It also recognized economic and social development and international security as not only causes, but also consequences, of better health. In addition, it highlighted the power of primary health care and international cooperation to advance the protection and promotion of health in resource-constrained settings. Building on the achievement of Alma-Ata and gaining further traction from the Millenium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, universal health care (UHC) has emerged in recent years as a central imperative of the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations and most of its member states, and much of civil society. UHC characterizes national health systems in which all individuals can access quality health services without individual or familial financial hardship.
Zaatari, Jordan - For many women living in the Zaatari refugee camp, the large sign by the entrance of the only maternity clinic is a familiar sight. It reads Women's and Girl's Comprehensive Center and features two digital display boards: one reflecting the current date, and the other indicating the number of babies safely delivered in the clinic, now approaching the 8,000 mark, all without a single maternal death. Also printed on the sign is a flag - with stars and stripes, red, white, and blue - a tribute to the country that first made this clinic a reality for thousands of women and girls in the world's largest Syrian refugee camp. The United States provided the vast majority of the clinic's funding when it opened its doors in Zaatari five years ago, and continued to support it through contributions to the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA). That was up until this past April when the Trump administration announced a total and immediate withdrawal of US funding to UNFPA.