Obama's Victory: A Boost for Global Health?

As U.S. President-elect Barack Obama prepares for his four years in the White House, many are discussing how his term will impact health issues, globally and in the U.S., and if he will deliver on his campaign promises.

As part of their campaign, Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden said that more must be done to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, as well as malaria and tuberculosis (TB). They pledged to provide at least $50 billion by 2013 for the global fight against HIV/AIDS, hoping to at least double the number of HIV-positive people on treatment, and supported increasing U.S. contributions to the Global Fund for AIDS, malaria, and TB. The ONE Blog lists other health- and poverty-related campaign promises.

Bloggers around the world are excited about what Obama's win could mean for health issues. Ray Hartley, blogging on The Times, South Africa, posts an excerpt of Obama's speech on World AIDS Day, 2006, after a visit to South Africa:

“We know how to save people’s lives. We know the medicine is out there and we know that wealthy countries can afford to do more. That’s why it was so frustrating for me to go to South Africa, and see the pain, and see the suffering …We should never forget that God granted us the power to reason so that we would do His work here on Earth – so that we would use science to cure disease, and heal the sick, and save lives. And one of the miracles to come out of the AIDS pandemic is that scientists have discovered medicine that can give people with HIV a new chance at life.”

yannick Santana, commenting on this excerpt says:

“If people have been wondering about ways in which President Obama change could positively impact the problem-solving process in Africa, this is an illustration.”

addis2000, blogging on Addismenged, provides five reasons why Obama's win is good for Ethiopians, including potentially helping Ethiopian-Americans access affordable healthcare. Within Ethiopia addis2000 adds:

“HIV/Aids and food insecurity form convergent miseries. To combat poverty, Ethiopian economists urge for immediate steps to curb the country’s exponential population growth. And yet, despite the Bush administration’s outstanding work to treat HIV/Aids victims in Africa through the PEPFAR programme, it worsened things by ordering USAID missions in six African countries to ensure that no U.S.-financed condoms, birth control pills, I.U.D.’s or other contraceptives are furnished to Marie Stopes International, which operates clinics in Ethiopia. Senator Obama supports family planning.”

Others also remain hopeful. A post on Med India says that Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft Corp., is optimistic about Obama's efforts to tackle global health issues, including ones in India. Understand Argentina also believes we have much to celebrate, and hopes this will be a new era for all Americans: North, Central and South. One of the reasons to celebrate, she adds, is because Obama will bring:

“More assistance in vocational training, micro-finance and community development; continue fighting AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis; reinforce global education.”

In the U.S., Obama's healthcare plan includes making healthcare affordable and accessible to all, lowering healthcare costs, and promoting public health. He also pledged to develop and begin implementing a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy during his first year of presidency.

RH Reality Check says that Obama's victory can be seen as a mandate for science and rationality, especially in healthcare policy. A post on Housing Works is also excited about these science-based policies, and hopes they will target people most in need.

“AIDS advocates were overwhelmingly thrilled by President-elect Barack Obama’s victory Tuesday, expressing hope that Obama’s election will bring meaningful changes to health care reform, science-based prevention, and a National AIDS strategy — all of which he promised during the campaign. And there is a real hope that the first black president — who has spoken out against health disparities in minority populations and homophobia in the black community — will frankly address the epidemic in the United States which overwhelmingly affects African-Americans, Latinos and gay men.”

Stiletto, blogging on Pourquoi Pas?, points out that though Obama has inherited huge problems from President George W. Bush, she hopes he will still deliver on his promises.

“For the American people, I hope he manages to find the 33 billion dollars to make America’s health system a thing of everyday like here in Europe, instead of being a joke like a third world country and having 45 million people with no health care cover. If that idiot Bush managed to find nearly 1000 billion dollars to go murder hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, surely, 33 billion dollars to keep the health of the citizens of USA is a lot more important and a lot cheaper. But this is your problem, Americans, and I wish you all the best. “

However, My African Diaspora cautions that we need to give Obama time to come through on all his promises:

“Temper expectations. Change won’t occur overnight. We’ve got so many pressing priorities: the economy, healthcare, the war, foreign policy and a slew of others. He won’t be able to wave a magic wand and make it all better. To expect him to would only demonstrate our own ignorance of the political process. Instead, reserve judgment and criticism and engage in the governance of your country. It is our right and our responsibility.”

Photo of Obama Posters by tonx on Flickr.

* This post also appears on Global Voices Online.

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