Thank you, Rhonda, for that nice introduction.
It’s great to be here with you tonight. I think having a room full of this many talented people and influential organizations, all devoted to improving the health of our neediest people, is a very promising sign for the future of the world.
I do want to acknowledge a few people in particular: my friend John Tedstrom who’s an expert on many subjects: global health, Eastern Europe, the Kansas Jayhawks. He’s has done a terrific job leading the Global Business Coalition as you continue to lead the world in showing how the private sector can contribute to global health.
I also want to acknowledge my friend and colleague Ambassador Goosby, our department’s own Director of Global Health Affairs Dr. Nils Daulaire, and all the members of our US Global Health team who are here with us. Under President Obama, we really are working as a team, and we at HHS are very grateful for our talented partners in State and USAID and across government.
I want to acknowledge tonight’s awardees. You’re showing that businesses have more to contribute to global health than a checkbook and more to gain than good press clippings. We need more companies to follow your example.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the Global Business Coalition and all members who are here tonight. By joining the Global Business Coalition, you have shown that you understand two critical points: first, that improving the health of the world’s neediest people is one of the biggest moral challenges of our time. And second, that the best way to do that is by working together.
So I’m very glad to be here tonight. And I want to begin by quoting an old poet who said “the greatest wealth is health.” Many of you have probably heard that line, and the reason it’s stayed with us is that it still rings true today.
Health does not just affect how we feel. It determines whether we can go to school, do our jobs, enjoy our hobbies, raise our children. It’s the foundation of a prosperous, productive society. That’s a big part of the reason why President Obama is making health one of his top priorities here at home from the Affordable Care Act to his National HIV/AIDS Strategy, on which the Global Business Coalition has been a great partner.
But for the world’s poorest people, health is even more important. It’s a key to improving education, increasing economic opportunity, strengthening communities. When health improves, so does quality of life in many other areas.
That’s why I believe global health is such an urgent issue for our time. It is one of the effective ways – if not the most effective way – that we can help the people who need help the most.
But as all of you know, we also have a strategic interest in investing in global health. As our awardees tonight have shown, reducing the spread of disease can also improve the health of your workforce, open new markets, and create more stable societies.
When we invest in global health, we all benefit.
This is not a Democratic view or a Republican view. One of the most successful global health programs of all time began under President Bush.
When he started PEPFAR in 2003, fewer than 50,000 people in all of sub-Saharan Africa were receiving anti-retroviral therapy. Today, programs sponsored by the U.S. Government are supporting treatment for almost 2.5 million people, the vast majority in Africa.
PEPFAR showed that when we combined additional resources with a clear focus, we could achieve significant improvements in health outcomes.
PEPFAR also showed that the private sector can be a key partner. When we increased our investment, you increased your investment too.
And with the commitment of companies around the world including many that are here tonight, we were able to accomplish much more than we would have been able to with government or NGOs alone.
We are proud of the progress we made together in the last seven years. But we’re not satisfied. We believe we can have an even bigger impact.
That’s why President Obama has launched a historic six-year $63 billion Global Health Initiative that expands our commitments to programs that promote health in the world’s poorest countries.
We’re pairing these new resources with an innovative new approach. Just like you do in your businesses every day, we took a hard look at all our programs and asked; how can we make a bigger difference?
So we’re making some changes. First, we’re taking what we call a “whole of government” approach, which means our department and all its agencies – notably the CDC, the NIH, the FDA, and the Health Resources and Services Administration – are working closely with the State Department, USAID, and all our other partner agencies to meet the needs of the people we all serve.
We’re also looking for new and better ways to coordinate with multilateral organizations, NGOs, and private industry to make a bigger impact.
A perfect example is the PEPFAR-Global Business Coalition partnership in Kenya called “Health at Home.” With “Health at Home,” we already had an effective system for delivering HIV tests and counseling door to door. So now we’re taking that same distribution system and using it to get people malaria bed nets and other life-saving health tools.
Under the Global Health Initiative, we want to build more of these partnerships. And we want them to be true partnerships.
We want to take advantage of your unique organizational abilities whether it’s marketing or distribution or telecommunications or human resources. If Bruce Springsteen says he wants to help you start a band, you don’t ask him for $100. You give him a guitar.
Coke knows how to get a can of soda to almost anywhere in the world for less than a dollar. We can use that skill.
The NBA knows how to get people on the other side of the globe excited about a sport they’ve never heard of before and to make nets a major branding tool. We can use that skill.
As we strengthen our commitment to global health yet again, I hope you will too. And I hope we can also strengthen our partnership, each making the most of our skills and experience so we can all make the biggest difference in the lives of those who need help the most.
I also have another request tonight. Over the last nine years, the Global Business Coalition has made incredible contributions in our fight against infectious disease. And though the latest UN reporting shows that together, we’re beginning to reverse the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria – we have a long way left to go to defeat these illnesses.
But as we go forward, I hope you will also consider devoting some of your resources and energy to another area that is a signature focus of the Global Health Initiative: maternal and child health, and the reproductive health of young women.
We know that women and girls in poor countries are more vulnerable to getting sick. We also know they’re less likely to have access to health services. That’s the moral argument for making this a priority.
But there’s a strategic argument too. Women are gateways to their communities.
Around the world, women are primarily responsible for managing water, nutrition, household resources. They’re primarily responsible for accessing health services for their families. Many of them are closely involved in actually providing health care for those around them.
So by improving the health of women, we can improve the health of the communities they live in too.
We see this every day in our work around the world. Through PEPFAR for example, we help fund women’s groups for HIV-positive mothers. In 2004, a woman named Stella joined one of these groups in Abuja, Nigeria while she was pregnant. Thanks partly to the group, she was able to get the right antenatal care and have a healthy child.
Later, she had a second healthy child, and by this time, Stella had become a leader in the group. She was able to educate many of our her peers about the steps they needed to take to protect themselves and their children – advice that was much more effective coming from Stella than it would have been from an aid worker.
So by educating one woman about how to be healthy, we were able to improve the health of dozens of Nigerians. That’s a return on investment that any business would envy.
There’s a Stella in every community in the world, in every village or neighborhood. And what I’m asking you to do tonight is work with us to invest in these Stella’s. Work with us to improve the health of women and children, with all the other benefits that brings.
Over the last seven years, we’ve shown that working together we can halt the spread of infectious disease in many parts of the world. As we deepen that partnership, let’s also broaden it to include maternal and child health.
If we do that, I feel confident that we can achieve sustainable improvements in global health that will help tens of millions of people around the world reach their full potential.