Office of Government Relations

EPPN Global Health Series: Introduction and Global Health Security

May 6, 2020
Office of Government Relations

By: Patricia Kisare, International Policy Advisor

For the next four weeks, the Office of Government Relations will share information with you about the global health sector and The Episcopal Church’s engagement in this area. In the midst of a global pandemic, it is clear how we all depend on global health systems and infrastructure and the role that governments and multilateral institutions play in addressing public health. The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of the need for adequate investments in local health systems and in global health institutions such as the World Health Organization, which works with governments around the world to respond to public health crises, mitigate the impact of disease outbreaks, and build resilient public health systems.

Jesus was a healer of both physical and spiritual illness, and our calling as believers must include this aspect of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus intentionally reached out to people living on the margins of society, caring for and healing them. As we look at those who live on the margins today, we see that these populations continue to be disproportionally impacted by unequal and poorly funded healthcare systems globally. We see children dying of preventable diseases and people unable to access medicine or preventive healthcare.

The Episcopal Church has been engaged in global health work for a long time. General Convention has passed resolutions in response to various global health challenges, including HIV/AIDSmaternal and child healthmalaria, and other diseases. The Office of Government Relations has been advocating to the U.S. government to increase funding resources and to work with international partners to strengthen healthcare systems, especially in low- to middle-income countries.

Over the past several decades, policymakers and philanthropists have increasingly recognized that robust public health investments lead to significant social and economic returns. In 2018 for instance, the international community spent $38.9 billion on global health assistance, an increase from previous years. These investments have helped improve access to quality healthcare for people living in low- to middle- income countries. Nonetheless, the global health system is plagued with inequities that must be corrected to ensure the well-being of all.

One example of these inequities is healthcare expenditures; currently, governments in high-income countries spend over $5,180 per person on healthcare compared to just $44 per person in low-income countries. Underinvestment in health often leaves people living in poverty without adequate healthcare. In addition to advocacy through our office, our Church helps to provide direct services through the work of Episcopal Relief and Development and in partnership with the Anglican Communion.

Global Health Security

Global health security refers to the ability of public health systems to be resilient enough to prevent, detect, and respond to acute infectious diseases (See definition). In the last twenty years, the U.S. and many other countries have made significant investments in global public health programs in order to promote better global health security. These investments have enabled the international community to address a range of challenges in low- and middle-income countries. Efforts to expand access to vaccines and treatments for diseases such as HIV, TB, and malaria have consequently improved quality of life for many people. However, much of the global community remains vulnerable to infectious disease outbreaks.

Epidemiologists and public health experts have been raising alarms about threats posed by infectious disease events for many years. Unfortunately, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak is a case in point. In today’s interconnected world, an infectious disease can be transmitted from a remote area to any major city around the world in 36 hours, an illustration of how vulnerable we all are.

There are ongoing efforts to improve global response to disease outbreaks. Governments and public health institutions have begun to work collaboratively to strengthen countries’ capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to existing and emerging infectious diseases. We saw this collaboration during Ebola and Zika outbreaks, which were brought under control because countries worked together to respond.

Additional efforts include the Global Health Security Agenda, a multilateral initiative launched in 2014 to help countries build capacity for managing infectious diseases and elevate health security as a global priority. The U.S. is among the sixty-seven countries committed to the work of this initiative through 2024. In addition to its leading role in the implementation of the Global Health Security Agenda, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitors global public health threats, provides training, and mobilizes their staff to support international responses to disease outbreaks.

Our advocacy on global health aims to ensure that the U.S. government continues to support global health programs both financially and with expertise. As we have seen during this coronavirus outbreak, we must do more to enhance our global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. This work must include the strengthening of health systems in low- and middle-income countries.

Additional Resources

General Convention/Executive Council Resolutions

  • EXC021995.07: Guiding Principles for Government Legislation
  • 2006-D022: Establish the Millennium Development Goals as a Mission Priority 
  • 2003-D054: Keep America’s “Promise to Africa”
  • 2018-B026: Endorse the UN Sustainable Development Goals as the Basis for Policy and Action

Continue the Series

Global Health Series Week 2: Maternal and Child Health
Global Health Series Week 3: HIV/AIDS
Global Health Series Week 4: Malaria

The Office of Government Relations