Trump’s Budget Cuts Will Imperil World Health, Report Finds

(Walt Girdner/Courtesy Walt Girdner Studio)

(CN) – President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut public investments that curb various global health threats would threaten programs that save millions of lives around the world, according to a new report.

Slashing such funding would also jeopardize thousands of jobs in the United States, according to the report by the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC).

“From 2007 to 2015 alone, $14 billion in U.S. investments in global health innovations advanced numerous new technologies for fighting many dangerous diseases while attracting substantial private-sector commitments and creating 200,000 new American jobs,” said GHTC director Jamie Bay Nishi. “It’s hard to imagine many other investments of taxpayer dollars that have provided such impressive returns.”

The report notes that since 2000, U.S. investments have been critical in establishing partnerships with companies and philanthropic organizations – leading to the development of 42 new products that address various global health crises. These innovations include new malaria drugs designed especially for children which have saved an estimated 750,000 lives, and a cheap meningitis vaccine that at 50 cents per dose is credited with preventing 378,000 deaths.

U.S. funding has also aided the development of two new medicines to combat drug-resistant tuberculosis, as well as a low-cost vaccine that targets a strain of rotavirus, a potentially deadly diarrheal disease that commonly affects children in India.

“The public investment is critical because most of the victims of diseases like meningitis and malaria are too poor to offer the kind of commercial market incentives that attract industry interest,” Nishi said.

According to the analysis, about 89 cents of every government dollar stays in the United States, funding researchers as well as stimulating additional industry investments.

“[W]e have found many pharmaceutical and biotech companies are willing to turn their considerable talents to developing global health technologies if they have a reliable partner willing to share the risk,” Nishi said.

However, federal spending on global health research and development efforts has been inconsistent. Setting aside the one-time allocation to address the Ebola epidemic, U.S. investments in global health in 2015 fell about $250 million below 2012 levels.

Trump has proposed additional significant cuts, including a 23 percent reduction in funding for the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The agency is tasked with responding to global health threats that include Zika, HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

The president also has proposed a 25 percent overall reduction in funding for global health programs at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department. This would cut 49 percent of the funds currently available to global health security efforts at USAID, as well as strip all funding for the organization’s research on new HIV-prevention technologies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would lose 20 percent of its funding for global health programs as well.

Research focused on developing technologies that could address or even stop the next global health emergency would also be threatened. As an example, the report notes that prior to the Ebola outbreak of 2014, the Canadian and U.S. governments had developed a promising vaccine candidate which was “shelved due to a lack of ongoing funding.”

The vaccine was not ready to be used during the crisis.

“It’s alarming to see such uncertainty around funding for global health research at a time when risks are on the rise,” Nishi said. “And as this report shows, in addition to saving lives, investing in such efforts has a positive effect on both the U.S. economy and U.S. preparedness.”

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