“Even the way we change is changing,” Thomas Kalil, Deputy Director for Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), told attendees at the July 28 congressional briefing co-hosted by MFAN and the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC). Nearly 90 individuals from congressional offices, US government agencies, and the development and global health communities participated in a discussion about how research and innovation can be leveraged to advance the nation’s foreign assistance goals.
Panelists in the briefing highlighted the crucial role that science and innovation play in foreign aid, with a focus on past successes and future opportunities in global health research. The event, “Innovation to catalyze development: Leveraging research in US foreign assistance,” was moderated by Susan Dentzer, Editor-in-Chief of Health Affairs, and included Mr. Kalil; Dr. Jeffrey Sturchio, MFAN Principal and President and CEO of the Global Health Council; Dr. Maura O’Neill, Senior Counselor to the Administrator and Chief Innovation Officer at USAID; and Dr. Corey Casper, Director of the Uganda Program on Cancer and Infectious Diseases (UPCID) at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
In order to maximize the US investment in science and technology and deliver effective assistance, panelists stressed a whole-of-government approach to foreign aid. It is “essential” that the United States has a “coordinated, multidisciplinary” approach to international development, Dr. Casper said. For example, panelists highlighted a study conducted among nearly 900 women at two sites in South Africa that showed a notable reduction in the risk of HIV infection associated with an experimental HIV prevention gel, called a microbicide. The research benefited enormously from interagency partnership—the study was supported, in large part, by USAID, as well as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—and demonstrates the type of success possible when US agencies collaborate effectively.
Jeff Sturchio specifically argued that the US needs a global development strategy that is whole-of-government, coherent, and responsive to local needs. Such a strategy should also be built on transparency and accountability and partnership with civil society, donors, and other governments. Sturchio then put forward the notion of a whole-of-society approach, which the other panelists picked up on throughout the remainder of the discussion.