President Trump’s proposed budget would have a profound negative impact on the health of people around the world – including those in both our country and our state. The administration’s proposed budget makes significant cuts to global health and development funding, including an 18 percent cut to the Health and Human Services budget, a 29 percent cut to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The budget, which proposes significant increases in military spending, is intended to make us safer, but may well have the opposite effect. The American government’s investments in global health have two major benefits—improving the health of people around the world and protecting America’s interests. As we help people and communities become healthier and expand human progress, we create more stable and secure societies, expand democracy, create new trade partners, and generate good will. That is why some of the strongest support for global health programs comes from senior Defense Department officials. More than 120 retired three and four-star generals sent a letter to the House and Senate leadership stressing the importance of the State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies in “preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way.”
In addition to affecting our safety, cuts to federal programs would ripple through our global health community here in North Carolina. Our state is home to a unique, diverse and thriving global health sector. Between our major universities, our biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, our non-profit organizations and our faith-based groups, over 200 North Carolina organizations and institutions work in more than 185 countries to improve global health. Collectively, our organizations positively impact millions of lives around the world contributing to declines in mortality, extreme poverty and disease.
We can be proud of the unparalleled environment of collaboration and innovation our state has created as we work together across sectors to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. As we have seen with Zika and Ebola, a disease threat anywhere in the world is a disease threat everywhere, including here in our state. North Carolina-based organizations are inventing new vaccines, testing medical devices, training health workers and strengthening health systems making the world more safe and secure for everyone. The United States’ commitment to health and development is an essential component of that work.
The global health sector is not only responsible for saving lives – we also collectively generate jobs and spur economic activity. The global health sector here in North Carolina supports thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in wages and salaries. The impact of global health on the state's economy was estimated to be up to $2 billion annually in 2009. The Triangle Global Health Consortium has just initiated a study to determine the current impact of the global health sector on the state’s annual economy, and we know that it has grown since 2009.
North Carolina is also home to government agencies including the National Institutes of Environmental Health and offices of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The proposed $5.8 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget could have a profound impact on North Carolina. In 2015, North Carolina received over $1 billion in NIH funding supporting over 17,000 jobs in the state. Budget cuts put jobs at risk both within those agencies, including as many as 3,200 jobs at the EPA alone, and within the organizations that typically receive the grants they provide. For every U.S. dollar spent on global health research and development, 64 cents support domestic-based researchers and product developers, and each NIH grant creates an average of seven high-quality jobs. Our local universities and non-profit organizations are likely to be the hardest hit by grant reductions.
North Carolina’s quickly growing global health sector has for many years generated knowledge, highly skilled individuals, jobs and partnerships that have established the state as a leader in global health. Our federal government’s investment in global health not only improves the health and safety of people around the world – it is critical to supporting our citizens here in North Carolina.
Claire Neal is the executive director of the Triangle Global Health Consortium, a membership organization dedicated to global health in North Carolina.