In an increasingly globalized world, with travel restrictions easing and the movement of cross-border migrants and travelers on a steady upswing, a health threat emerging in one corner of the world will eventually become a global health threat.
“We can no longer separate global health from America’s health,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius at a recent seminar on global health. “We need to look beyond our borders to improve health inside our country.”
Cross-border movement of people and goods increases the chances of disease-causing pathogens hitching a ride. That’s the bad news, said Secretary Sebelius. The good news is that other countries are working to develop solutions for the same problems, and we can share research and ideas. This is true not only for contagious health threats such as the H1N1 flu, for example, but also for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, which are rapidly increasing within the global population.
However, there are many more reasons beyond preventing diseases from entering the US for taking a global approach to improving America’s health. After all, those health issues which affect US citizens, from chronic disease, to rising health costs to the shortage of primary care providers are not unique to our country. These are agenda items of governments around the world.
“One area in particular where we are learning from each other is the importance of investing in the health of women and girls. When you give women better access to health information and services, there are huge benefits not just for the women themselves, but also for their children, families, and communities.
”[The HHS Global Health Strategy] does not represent a radical new direction. Rather, it seeks to provide a new focus going forward so that we can use the [Department’s] unique expertise, resources and relationships to make the biggest impact possible,” said Secretary Sebelius.
“Health is an issue which aligns the interests of the countries around the world. ... [A] healthier world is one in which every nation will have more productive workers, longer lives, and larger markets for its goods and services.”