Proposed Budget Cuts to Global Health Might Be Bad Medicine for State Economies: Public Health Watch Report

A new report by Global Health Technologies Coalition assesses the economic impact of cuts to global health R&D on the economies of US states.

A new report by Global Health Technologies Coalition assesses the economic impact of cuts to global health R&D on the economies of US states.

They say “money makes the world go ’round.”

In public health, it’s also vital in the fight against certain diseases—think Ebola, malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, to name a few—that remain problematic in certain areas, particularly in the developing world. In keeping with his “America-first” agenda, President Donald Trump has proposed a streamlined federal budget for the fiscal year 2019 that, among other significant changes, aims to reduce foreign aid. The budget is currently working its way through Congress.

According to an analysis by NPR, the cuts to foreign aid will mean that the United States will spend more than $2 billion (or 26%) less in the coming years to fight infectious diseases in resource-poor countries across the globe. In all, funding to fight Ebola would drop by 11%, and monies devoted to combating HIV/AIDS worldwide would decline by 17%.

Although improving public health overseas may help keep US citizens safer from infectious diseases as well, at least according to research published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in 2014 (the Zika virus outbreak in Florida in 2016 could also be considered evidence of this), some, including Bill Gates, as we reported last week, would suggest it’s also a moral imperative for resource-rich nation with some of the leading minds engaged in both public- and private-sector research into new vaccines and treatments.

In addition, it may just be good for business.

A new report entitled Return on innovation: Why global health R&D is a smart investment for the United States, issued by the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), a lobbying and advocacy organization working on Capitol Hill, suggests US investments in global health research and development (R&D) have “generated considerable economic benefits for individual states—creating jobs and injecting millions of dollars into local economies.” The first-of-its-kind state-by-state analysis found that R&D spending for the period between 2007 and 2015 contributed $2.5 billion to the economy and created more than 30,000 jobs in Maryland alone. In Georgia, global health R&D investment added $349 million and nearly 6,000 jobs to the local economy.

Overall, the US government’s $14 billion investment in global health R&D between 2007 and 2015 created 200,000 new American jobs and generated $33 billion in economic growth, according to the GHTC report. In fact, the report concluded that 89 cents out of every dollar invested in global health in the United States stay in the country, “funding researchers and stimulating industry investments.”

“While the [Trump] administration claims cuts to global health research are putting America first, the data suggest otherwise,” said GHTC Director Jamie Bay Nishi, in a statement released with the report. “US funding for global health research is not only saving lives worldwide, it’s also paying significant economic and health dividends across American states. We hope Congressional policymakers will see the wisdom to reject these dangerous cuts. Slashing funding for global health research will not only mark a retreat from America’s humanitarian and moral leadership in the world; it will also put the health of US citizens at risk and harm the economies of states.”

In other words, putting America first may entail reconsidering the importance of the public health needs of other countries as well. And what many of these countries need, above all else, is money.

Brian P. Dunleavy is a medical writer and editor based in New York. His work has appeared in numerous health care-related publications. He is the former editor of Infectious Disease Special Edition.