New legislation introduced last week to could reduce foreign aid by $10 billion. Some of these cuts would affect global health organizations that fight HIV infection and malaria and provide family planning and contraceptive services.
Stanford health policy researcher Eran Bendavid, MD, has spoken out against proposed cuts. Saving lives and improving health in other parts of the world is an investment, he said, in the well-being of American lives.
“While the evidence and anecdotes questioning foreign aid have some validity when it comes to economic development, the story with health is very different,” Bendavid writes in a recent commentary in PLOS Medicine. “In fact, U.S. foreign aid for health has arguably been the single most important driver of the last 20 years’ health improvements in developing countries.”
Bendavid, a core faculty member at Stanford Health Policy and assistant professor of medicine, goes on to say that no single country and its people have provided more financial support than the U.S., which has helped expand access to childhood vaccines and antiretroviral therapy for HIV and has reinvigorated global efforts to fight malaria.
His editorial accompanied a study in PLOS Medicine last month that determined American donations to fight malaria have saved the lives of nearly 2 million children. The study looked at the long-term effects of the President's Malaria Initiative, which was introduced in 2005 and has spent more than $500 million a year to fight malaria since 2010.
The results of the study are “striking,” Bendavid said, in that it’s the first demonstration of the large-scale effectiveness of foreign aid for malaria.
“The U.S.-financed retreat of malaria now adds to the pantheon of global health achievements,” he said. “It also underscores that the anticipated benefits of effective aid include not only a reduction in the number of children dying in poor countries, but also, arguably, an investment in the well-being of Americans.”