What’s Up with the U.S. Global Health Initiative? Nandini Oomman

May 17, 2011
When President Obama created the Global Health Initiative (GHI) in May 2009, health policy gurus welcomed it as a pioneering effort to make US involvement in global health more coherent, strategic and systematic. Two years later, there has been some modest progress but questions abound about how the initiative will take shape and deliver results.Nandini Oomman, senior associate at the Center for Global Development, joins me on the Wonkcast this week to assess the GHI’s progress on its second birthday. Her mounting impatience is nicely summed up in a blog post she wrote about the anniversary: Happy 2nd Birthday to the U.S. Global Health Initiative: Next Time I Want a Goody Bag!The GHI is nothing if not ambitious: it aims to take a hodgepodge of programs designed to address individual challenges—think HIV/AIDS, malaria, maternal and child health—and shape them into a coherent U.S. government strategy. Touchstones of the plan include such good ideas as: collaborate for impact, do more of what works, build on country-owned platforms to foster stronger systems, and innovate for results.In practical terms, this means among other things that a woman in a poor country seeking health-care at U.S. supported facilities is more likely to find what she needs at a single location. “Now when a woman goes to a clinic she is able to receive services for herself and her children, says Nandini. “She no longer has to go to different clinics to receive all the treatments she needs. This is the benefit of having a much more client centered and integrative approach.”The GHI finally began moving this spring after the confirmation of Lois Quam as GHI executive director. For the two-year anniversary, Nandini tells me that she and other GHI well-wishers were hoping for big announcements, or at least a raft of updates on substantive progress. Nothing so far.“There hasn’t even been a mention of the two year anniversary on the GHI website,” says Nandini. “Programs are ongoing, there are objectives being met, and targets being calculated. We hear that there is a lot of activity going on in these countries. I was surprised we didn’t see any reporting on this progress.” (Since we recorded the interview, the Kaiser Family Foundation has announced a May 25 event that Nandini thinks may answer some of her questions.)She hopes to see more reporting on the GHI’s targets, principles, implementation and progress. And she is concerned that the GHI, already at risk under political pressure to cut foreign aid spending, might provide a good reason for specific global health funding cuts if it can’t promote itself with better reporting on its achievements results. I asked Nandini what advice she would give to Lois Quam.“Communicate, communicate, communicate!” says Nandini. “People really want to see results from the GHI.”Listen to the Wonkcast to learn more about the GHI and Nandini’s views on balancing health priorities in the age of austerity. Wonkcast fans with an interest in the GHI will also want to read John Donnelly’s two-part series and an interview with Lois Quam in the Global Post.If you have iTunes, I hope you will subscribe to get new episodes of the Wonkcast delivered straight to your computer each week.My thanks to Will McKitterick for his production assistance on the Wonkcast recording and for assistance in drafting this blog post.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.