When candidates Romney and Obama visited the Clinton Global Health Initiative this week, they gave another campaign season glimpse of their global priorities, and in these appearances global health got one mention per candidate.
Candidate Romney called for a major shifts in foreign aid, promising to “leverage” private investment to play a pivotal role in global development with “Prosperity Pacts,” and the creation of a “Reagan Economic Zone.” He pointed to “legitimate objects” for foreign aid, one of which was the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief. While the reference to PEPFAR was his only mention U.S. efforts to address the global AIDS epidemic, it was once again, a supportive mention. Budget cuts proposed by his running mate Paul Ryan, however, would cut that and other foreign aid spending. The impact of the AIDS epidemic on what would be the most productive members of any country — those from 20 to 45 years old — in Romney’s discussion of “the incomparable dignity of work,” went unmentioned.
President Obama, in his fourth address to the initiative’s annual event, introduced the topic of his talk, human trafficking, by saying it was related to challenges he had discussed in previous appearances, including “our fight against HIV/AIDS.” A further explanation of that relationship could have added impetus to support for the efforts he described as well as to efforts to address global health challenges.
His administration’s argument for the gains in global development that can come from responding to health challenges, though, was presented the next day, with Secretary Hillary Clinton’s United Nations speech on “Shared Responsibility.” In it, pointing to efforts in Namibia, South Africa, and Rwanda that have strengthened national health responses in those countries, she added: “But let me be very clear. Country ownership is not code for abandoning our partners.”
We will continue to watch. The candidates will discuss foreign policy issues in their final two debates, on Oct. 16, and Oct. 22, and almost certainly will discuss the importance of health care in their first debate, which will focus on domestic issues, Oct. 3.