Statement by Ambassador Rick Barton, United States Representative on the Economic and Social Council to the United Nations, in Plenary of Sixty-fourth Session of the UN General Assembly, on Agenda Item 116: Global Health and Foreign Policy

Ambassador Rick Barton
U.S. Representative on the Economic and Social Council 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
December 11, 2009


Mr. President, Good afternoon.  The United States thanks South Africa, and the core group of co-sponsors for the open and thoughtful way they prepared this resolution.  Achieving global health for all is a top priority of the United States.   We recognize that despite honest efforts by many, much work remains to address the needs of the most vulnerable and to build true international cooperation around this vital issue.

This is a unique moment -- when global health challenges and our collective will to address them converge.  Elevating this global health resolution to the General Assembly confirms the centrality of the challenge and the opportunity. 

For our part, the United States is committed to partnering with the UN family and member states to expand access to health care, reduce health disparities, and build a more just world. 
The need is plain: 26,000 children die each day from poverty and preventable diseases.  Millions of people die each year from treatable diseases.  The HIV/AIDS infection rates remain far too high– in the United States and elsewhere – and an increasing number of women are affected.
The United States has taken initiatives, such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which has helped save over a million lives around the world.  But Americans also know that only by acting together can we address our daunting challenges. 

We are committed to doing our part and elevating national and international capacity.  We support the Millennium Development Goals, three of which explicitly address health issues – and all of which will improve the well being of our fellow citizens.  We see UNAIDS as an innovative model and admire the cohesion of UNICEF, WHO and other UN organizations as we take the final steps to eradicate polio, much as the UN led the effort to rid our world of smallpox.  Ours is a partnership with all of you, as we have seen with the Global Fund.  But this is only a start.

More recently the United States is helping to advance a new era in global health where we no longer tackle disease and illness in isolation, but instead we seek an integrated approach to public health that understands and addresses the many factors that can threaten the lives and livelihoods of all our citizens.

To advance this vision, President Obama has announced a new initiative that will seek $63 billion over six years to support a holistic global health model.  An essential element will be women-centered, with a particular focus on children and families.  Every minute of each day, a woman dies from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth.  So this initiative will work to reduce maternal and child mortality and will support a full range of family planning and reproductive health services to avert millions of unintended pregnancies.

The President’s new initiative will also expand our current efforts to fight AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis and renew our focus on addressing neglected tropical diseases.  It will emphasize disease prevention and seek out strategies not only to battle disease, but also to confront the conditions that allow disease to thrive. 

With an emphasis on improved metrics, monitoring, evaluation and research, and country ownership, this initiative will help strengthen health systems globally.  It will utilize new resources to make cost-effective and scientifically-proven investments in locally sustainable programs, improving the health of communities and ensuring greater access to healthcare for those in need.

Access to medicine is central to physical and mental health.  A wide array of policies and actions are available to realize that right, and we think that this resolution should not try to define its content.

We are committed to improving global health, and we believe that we must work together to meet our shared goals.  As the United States. implements a new Global Health initiative, we will consistently seek out the advice and expertise of your countries.  The hallmarks of our initiative will be strategic integration and coordination, international partnerships, cooperation and consultation.

Together we will tackle the decades-old challenges that continue to plague our planet and implement a new comprehensive strategy to improve global health.

The United States cannot help to solve these problems without others.  A pandemic that starts in one nation can travel as freely as a storm across borders.  Improvement will require a system of mutual trust that elevates the well-being of all.  This is the United States commitment: to work with other nations to protect the vulnerable, care for the sick, and improve the health of all.

Thank you, Mr. President.


PRN: 2009/311