TB budget cuts proposed as U.S. plans improved global disease responses

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“It is possible,” Dr. William Foege told an audience this morning, “To plan a rational future.”

Foege, a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director credited with heading the strategy that eradicated smallpox, was speaking to a gathering of CDC country post leaders planning to improve disease responses worldwide. He remembered earlier days in global health responses, when, he said, “we always saw ourselves as poor, trying to get by on a shoestring.” Now, he added, public health efforts have demonstrated the role new technologies play in successfully addressing outbreaks of disease.

The meeting Foege addressed was about to plan the next steps of the Global Health Security Agenda, an effort between the U.S. government, other nations, international organizations and public-private partnerships to better detect, respond to and prevent global health threats. It began however, in the wake of proposed funding to cuts global tuberculosis research and responses.

The President’s budget request for fiscal year 2015 includes $191 million for USAID’s TB program – a $45 million cut from FY 2014 enacted levels. Last year the White House had proposed a similar drastic cut, which Congress later rejected, allocating $236 million for the current fiscal year. Once again, global TB advocates are questioning the proposed cuts.

“TB is a major global health public health emergency,” said Gerald Friedland, MD, of Yale University. “Although preventable and curable, it remains among the world’s major killers of young adults, threatens HIV and antiretroviral rollout programs and saps strength and productivity from nations critical to improved global health and US security,” he said. “To propose cuts in the global TB program is shortsighted and reckless.”

While the President’s budget request cuts $45 million from global TB efforts, it includes $45 million to go to the CDC for the Global Health Security Agenda which lists multidrug-resistant TB as a major concern. The Global Health Security Agenda began with pilot programs in Vietnam and in Uganda, where challenges to promptly diagnose and treat multidrug-resistant TB were noted.

The Global Health Security Agenda brings together international agencies and 30 countries to focus on three key areas: preventing epidemics, detecting biological threats early, and rapidly responding to disease outbreaks through coordinated actions, with the ultimate goal of a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats. Partners plan on building on existing health platforms to further strengthen capacity. With only one out of five countries self-reporting compliance with World Health Organization 2005 International Health Regulations, partners will work to build disease response capacities of low and middle income countries.

 

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