New York Times Examines Debate Over U.S. Global Health Spending Priorities

The New York Times examines the “debate over whether the United States and other rich nations spend too much on AIDS, which requires lifelong medications, compared with diarrhea and the other leading killer of children, pneumonia, both of which can be treated inexpensively.” According to the newspaper, “[d]iarrhea kills 1.5 million young children a year in developing countries – more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined – but only 4 in 10 of those who need the oral rehydration solution that can prevent death for pennies get it.”

The global economic downturn has led to “heightened competition for foreign assistance,” and though President Barack Obama “has proposed a 2 percent increase in spending on HIV and AIDS for 2010 and a 6 percent rise for maternal and child health, according to the Global Health Council [GHC] … the disparity in American spending on AIDS and the big child killers remains stark,” the New York Times reports. GHC also estimates Obama has proposed a “53 percent increase next year” for the President’s Malaria Initiative “to fight … a major killer of African children.”

While international commitments to fight HIV/AIDS increased annually at an average rate of 48 percent between 1998 and 2007, according to Syracuse University’s Jeremy Shiffman, “more than half the people with the disease who need drug treatment still are not getting it,” the New York Times reports, adding, “[t]he toll of women and children who die of easily preventable or curable conditions is even higher. Pneumonia alone killed 2 million children under age 5 … out of the almost 9 million young children who died last year.”

There is consensus among public health specialists that “there is tremendous potential to lower child deaths from diarrhea and pneumonia substantially. New methods of distributing rehydration salts and cheap zinc tablets, also recommended for diarrhea, are being tested, including giving them away during national campaigns to hand out antimalarial bed nets and to vaccinate children against measles,” the newspaper writes. The article includes quotes from experts with different perspectives on the topic and also looks at global health spending in Africa’s “most populous nations, Nigeria and Ethiopia” (Dugger, 10/29). 

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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