A US-India partnership to advance global health - Hindustan Times
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A US-India partnership to advance global health

Aug 18, 2023 10:00 PM IST

For the US, India, and the world, cooperation and global partnerships are crucial in meeting future health challenges and advancing public health

This week I am joining India’s health minister Mansukh Mandaviya for the G20 health ministerial in Gandhinagar. I am proud to represent the United States (US) alongside my fellow G20 health ministers for these important meetings. We are developing strategies to address common challenges including pandemic response, achieving universal health coverage, improving global access to medical supplies during health emergencies, digital health, and the impact of the climate crisis on health. The global community is looking to ready health systems around the world to meet future health challenges. And we know a strong commitment to public health, with a focus on health equity and sustained global partnerships — which are top priorities for President Joe Biden and this administration — lays the foundation for achieving that.

In June, President Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated the collaboration across health sectors. (President Biden Twitter) PREMIUM
In June, President Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated the collaboration across health sectors. (President Biden Twitter)

Global health offers unique opportunities to come together in an all of society commitment to preventing the next health emergency. When global health is under threat, health diplomacy is a tie that can link countries, providing a foundation for an effective response.

From the 1918 flu pandemic to the AIDS epidemic to when Sars, Ebola, and other outbreaks threatened to destabilise our world order, we never allowed the political challenges of the moment to stop global science and health priorities from being pursued.

For more than a century, global coordination around health has been built into our approach, at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Every health-focused agency within HHS funds international work. And our commitment to this approach is evident in the US-India health cooperation, one of the oldest and most successful elements of the strategic partnership between our two great nations.

In June, President Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated the collaboration across health sectors. They welcomed the opportunity to secure, de-risk and strengthen pharmaceutical supply chains, and expand global collaboration on research and development on medical countermeasures, including vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

And they applauded the progress made by our research institutes on affordable cancer technology programmes, including the development of Artificial intelligence-enabled diagnostics and prognosis prediction tools, and in diabetes research.

During Covid, the US and India came together to develop and distribute vaccines around the world. And now, the world needs leaders such as India to continue working on the development of new medical technologies, advance research and development on vaccines and other cures, and elevate the importance of public health.

The simple truth is, no country can do this work entirely on its own.

The health of one nation, or one population, is tied to the health of others. Cooperation with India and our G20 partners is critical to everything we do.

How we treat disease and promote health is changing. Advancing technologies, such as synthetic biology and Artificial intelligence, can speed progress to understand and address critical health challenges, but if they are not used responsibly, they could undermine our efforts.

If we are too slow to act, the climate crisis threatens to undo half a century of progress in health. Covid highlights the need to expand and evolve our thinking about preparedness or risk being caught flat-footed when the next pandemic threat emerges.

We must improve access to primary healthcare across the world and make up the ground we lost over the past few years. We can mitigate the potential impacts of outbreaks by building a stronger foundation of health for everyone. But that means shifting our focus from illness-care to wellness-care. It requires us to address the social determinants of health.

It has always been true that our health at home is irrevocably connected to the health of people everywhere. There will be another pandemic. That is why we must remain committed to making sure the medical, public health and scientific communities continue to work together, unspoiled by the complexities of global politics.

India’s commitment to advancing public health goes back more than a century and continues to push us all to achieve more. As health ministers, we take seriously our responsibility to advance equity. It’s not just the moral thing to do, it’s the best strategic option.

Xavier Becerra is secretary, US Department of Health and Human Services. The views expressed are personal

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