SEATTLE, Washing — Though much of the coronavirus pandemic conversation is focused on just corona and the present, the crisis has intrinsically raised questions about the past and future too. Why wasn’t the U.S. or the world more prepared? How much of a difference would it have made if a U.S. pandemic response and prevention unit created in 2016 had not been eliminated in 2018? What can be done to ensure a crisis like this never happens again? Below are six U.S. global health bills recently introduced.
Global Health and the U.S.
Legislation has proven to have an effect on global health issues. For example, in 2003, the U.S. created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to address the HIV/Aids epidemic. Since then the number of sub-Saharan African individuals receiving treatment has risen from 50,000 to 14.6 million. Global health has also been an important topic throughout universities in North America.
Now, to address COVID-19, the president signed legislation in early March committing $8.3 billion toward combating the virus. Outside of COVID measures, however, there are more than 50 global health-related bills waiting to be passed through channels and signed into law. Their intents range from targeting specific diseases like COVID-19 or Ebola to creating the infrastructure to address or prevent such pandemics.
6 U.S. Global Health Bills
- The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced this bill in the House of Representatives on Jan. 8, 2019. It reauthorizes programs and new directives under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the Public Health Service (PHS) Act. One particular aim is to direct the National Health Security Strategy to address global health security. This includes assessing current or potential threats abroad to inform domestic action. The House passed the bill, the Senate read it twice and has now listed it on the Senate Legislative Calendar.
- Advancing Emergency Preparedness Through One Health Act of 2019. This bill establishes an interagency system called the One Health Program. The program would improve and expand coordination between government health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention One Health office. The goal is to better “prevent, prepare for and respond to” outbreaks of zoonotic diseases. These are infectious diseases caused by the spread of germs from animals to humans. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon) introduced this bill on July 16, 2019. The House then referred the bill to the House subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture.
- Global Health Coordination and Development Act & the Global Health Act. These effectively identical bills were introduced last October in the Senate by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and in the House by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.). They call for a national Global Health Commission and Global Health Attaché Program. This would unite various U.S. global health agencies and initiatives, creating a nucleus from which to work across all health entities to address concerns. Such centralized infrastructure would improve “long-term stability, diplomacy” and “sustainable capacity building.”
- Global Health Security Act of 2019. Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Virginia) introduced this act with Rep. Steve Chabot [R-Ohio] in the House on April 9, 2019. The committee voted on it on March 4. It enhances the U.S. government’s efforts to prevent and prepare for infectious disease threats. It stresses the importance of improving health in developing nations. One suggested measure includes establishing a Global Health Security Agenda Interagency Review Council to help guide and provide oversight on an infectious disease initiative that America and about 30 other nations launched in 2014.
- Ebola Eradication Act of 2019. This bill aims to eliminate the Ebola virus. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) introduced the Act in the Senate May 7. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) introduced it in the House on June 4. The act calls for the U.S. to assist the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other surrounding vulnerable areas in combating an ongoing outbreak that began in 2018. In both legislative bodies, subcommittees are scheduled to review the act.
- End Tuberculosis Now Act. Though tuberculosis remains at the epidemic level, the infection claimed 1.6 million lives worldwide in 2017 alone. This act aims to prevent, treat and cure tuberculosis globally through ramping up U.S. financial commitment and engagement in initiatives led by the World Health Organization and other entities. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) introduced the bill in the Senate on August 1, 2019.
The coronavirus pandemic speaks to the need for the U.S. to be concerned about Global Health issues. If passed, the six U.S. global health bills above would contribute to the prevention, preparedness and response of the U.S., and by extension the global community, to similar health threats that exist today and that might emerge in the future.
– Amanda Ostuni