2024 presidential election is crucial for world health

Bill Gates, co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (File Photo: Bloomberg)
Bill Gates, co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (File Photo: Bloomberg)

Summary

Every president in recent memory has dealt with epidemics.

American elections are about more than just America. They have consequences for the entire world, and our elected officials shape how the U.S. is seen around the globe. They amplify our values on the international stage. And they’re tasked with keeping people safe.

Issues such as extreme poverty, chronic hunger and deadly diseases rarely make headlines in America unless they’re happening in the U.S. But these evils are often at the root of global crises. They destabilize economies, weaken health systems, and cause conflicts around the world.

Global problems require global investment, but America must continue to lead by example in support for global health. Although global health programs shouldn’t be controversial, funding for them is constantly under threat despite decades of evidence showing their incredible influence.

In 2003, an HIV diagnosis was still a death sentence in many parts of the world. President Bush, with broad bipartisan support, created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. That program, along with other U.S.-backed efforts such as the Global Fund, helped turn the tide of the AIDS epidemic.

Mr. Bush’s plan alone has saved more than 25 million lives. His malaria initiative—another bipartisan effort—has saved nearly 12 million. And the global collaboration Gavi, the vaccine alliance, reports that it has helped deliver vaccines to more than a billion children.

Thanks to these efforts, child mortality has been cut in half in a single generation. But for all the progress we’ve made, roughly five million children under 5 still died in 2022—mostly of preventable causes such as diarrhea and pneumonia. Measles and other diseases are re-emerging in places where they were once eliminated. Nearly half the world is at risk of malaria, and in 2022 the National Institutes of Health reported that tuberculosis claims one life every 20 seconds.

New diagnostics, affordable treatments and faster delivery systems could save many lives. They are being developed but require continued American leadership to reach those most in need.

Some, understandably, question why we should spend money and effort to help people in other countries when there are so many challenges here in America. The Gates Foundation funds projects around the world because global health programs benefit everyone.

Every president in recent memory has dealt with an epidemic, from Ebola and H1N1 to SARS and Covid-19. By providing countries with medicine, equipment and training, we’ve helped contain the spread of deadly diseases.

There are economic benefits of such efforts, too. Former U.S. aid recipients—South Korea, for example—have become some of our largest trading partners, supplying everything from food and clothes, to the processors in our phones. And now South Korea is an aid donor to other countries.

As the November elections approach, American voters should ask where candidates stand on global issues. And candidates should show they understand these issues. In this election, we must reaffirm that by continuing America’s proud, bipartisan tradition of global leadership, we can safeguard the future of our children and our nation—and help the entire world.

Mr. Gates is chairman of the Gates Foundation.

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