GHI Executive Director Addresses Global Health Community At Kaiser Family Foundation Town Hall

In her first public address since being tapped in January to serve as executive director of President Barack Obama’s Global Health Initiative (GHI), Lois Quam on Tuesday said she’s been doing “a lot of listening” to officials at the State Department, PEPFAR, CDC and other agencies about the GHI. At a town hall event hosted at the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Barbara Jordan Conference Center in Washington, D.C., Quam reflected on U.S. contributions to global health successes and acknowledged that significant work remains for improving health worldwide.

Quam engaged in dialogue with the global health community and responded to questions about the administration’s commitment to topics ranging from family planning and maternal and child health to human rights and the need for field-ready, low-cost diagnostics. Quam described the ways that GHI aims to respond to such issues, while also ensuring U.S. funds are spent efficiently and effectively.

“So much of it is about improving the effectiveness and efficiency by which we deliver our knowledge, our capacity, our resources around the world so that we can save more lives, we can reduce the immense suffering and burden of illness, and we can protect our country at the same time,” she said, noting the importance of public-private partnerships.

Quam told the audience she was “looking forward to spending a lot of time on the Hill” to discuss with members of Congress the “very significant work that remains” in tackling issues related to global health, and engaging the American public. “To lead successfully, we need to understand … and be relevant outside of Washington. We know that there is huge support for the work of global health … across this country. People have given generously for the cause of global health for generations,” Quam said, adding, “We have a cause here that’s worth fighting for, and we’re going to have to fight for it.”

Quam said she likes “the challenges of collaborating with people who look at ideas in very different ways and finding ways they can work together very effectively because I’ve found that if you can have different approaches to the same problem, you tend to end up with a more robust and sustainable solution.” A webcast of the discussion, which was moderated by Jennifer Kates, vice president and director of Global Health & HIV Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, is available online.

Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. released a GHI Strategy document (.pdf), which was “devel­oped in consultation with partner countries, civil society organizations, the U.S. Congress, other donors and governments, private sector partners, and multilateral and international institutions,” according to a statement on PEPFAR’s website (Evans, 3/1).

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