Global Health Diplomacy

Global health diplomacy is at the core of OGA's work. At the intersection of public health and foreign affairs, we foster critical relationships with multilateral organizations, foreign governments, and Ministries of Health and Science and Technology around the world. We also represent the United States in key global discussions and negotiations to protect and promote health and human services worldwide. Through global health diplomacy, OGA creates pathways for HHS to apply its expertise globally, advance research through collaboration, and contribute to effective global health policy.

Global health diplomacy also leverages a widely agreed-upon goal—a healthier, safer world—to develop foundations for diplomatic relations in other sectors.

What We Do

In our global health diplomacy role, OGA addresses a broad spectrum of health and human service activities with bilateral and multilateral partners, including the World Health Organization.

Bilateral engagement: OGA coordinates and facilitates HHS engagement in over 180 countries and economies. OGA liaises with foreign governments, Ministries of Health, and nongovernmental organizations to advance key global health objectives and ensure health goals are aligned between the U.S. and the countries we support. As a leader in bilateral health relationships between the U.S. and other countries, OGA helps other agencies of the U.S. government navigate national and regional health sensitivities and identify country-specific health priorities to ensure effective engagement.

To strengthen this engagement, OGA posts and supports Health Attachés in almost every region of the world. Health Attachés facilitate relationships between the U.S. government and our in-country and regional counterparts to create space for HHS to apply its expertise globally, advance research through collaboration, and contribute to effective health policy. Health Attachés advise Embassy officials and HHS staff at the Mission where they are posted and represent HHS and US global health interests to the local Ministries of Health (MOH) and Science and Technology (MOST) and in key regional policy discussions. US Missions that have a Health Attaché have stronger relationships with the local MOH, as one role of Health Attachés is a more formal coordination system with the host country on the intersection of health and any number of sectors, including trade, security, or the environment. They are also an important point of contact for the United States in the event of an infectious disease outbreak or other public health emergencies.

OGA currently has seven Health Attachés posted in strategic locations around the world: Brazil, China, Kenya, India, Mexico, and South Africa, as well as a seventh in Geneva, Switzerland, to work with the WHO and other multilateral organizations. We continue to receive more requests for health attachés than there is capacity to support.

Multilateral engagement: OGA represents HHS with a variety of multilateral organizations and serves as the primary liaison for U.S. government engagement with the World Health Organization (WHO) and its regional offices, including the Pan American Health Organization and the Western Pacific Regional Office.  As part of this role, OGA is responsible for advising and supporting the U.S. representative to the WHO Executive Board (when the U.S. is a member) and the U.S. delegation to the annual World Health Assembly, which is led by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. During this meeting of the decision-making body of the WHO, Member States determine the policies of WHO, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed program budget.

Engagement with the WHO continues throughout the year, not just at these events, and OGA represents the U.S. government in critical global health negotiations and policy discussions with the WHO and other multilateral organizations. Among recent engagements with the WHO and Member States, OGA is representing the United States in the Working Group on Amendments to the International Health Regulations (WGIHR) and the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. The WGIHR is a body of WHO Member States working to update the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005). The IHR are a key component of the global health architecture and the only international framework for global health security that facilitates global coordination and collaboration among countries between and during international public heath emergencies as well as the strengthening of critical capacities needed at the country level to prevent, prepare for, and respond to public health events with the potential of spreading across borders.  OGA coordinates with the Department of State to lead U.S. representation jointly in the INB, which aims to strengthen global pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, based on the principles of inclusiveness, transparency, efficiency, and WHO Member State leadership and consensus.

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