For any nation, the health and well-being of its population has broad social, political, and economic implications. As such, health cooperation is an important part of the foreign policy of the United States. Advancing health diplomacy is one of the objectives articulated in the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Global Health Strategy: – Engage directly with diplomatic partners, and strengthen peer-to-peer technical, public health, and scientific relationships.
Health diplomacy efforts carried out by HHS can often transcend diplomatic challenges and enable the U.S. government to maintain strong and mutually beneficial ties to other countries. In cases where more traditional diplomatic relationships may be strained, HHS health diplomacy activities can help continue relationships with governments at a non-political level, or foster dialogue and grow new partnerships with academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and civil society.
Other agencies also have a role in broad health diplomacy efforts, for example, as part of humanitarian assistance activities. However, as the primary health agency of the U.S. Government, HHS's leading role is to bring critically needed scientific rigor and technical expertise to the intersection of global biomedical research and health and international relations, through field staff and technical experts who are central to our health diplomacy work. HHS's health attachés, senior health experts with in-depth understanding of HHS's core capacities, on detail to the management team of U.S. Embassies, serve as key advisors to their Ambassadors on a wide range of health issues, collaborate with in-country partners, and advance the exchange and dissemination of scientific and evidence-based knowledge. They also represent the U.S. in key multilateral forums to promote U.S. policy positions, including negotiating acceptable outcomes consistent with U.S. objectives. Such engagement reinforces political goals and initiatives, bringing scientific and technical expertise as part of a smart power approach.
Given the critical nature of this health diplomacy work, it is essential to provide increased structure in both short- and long-term career development for staff carrying out these functions. This effort would include appropriate training for personnel in HHS as well as other agencies, and a clear and recognized professional path for those engaged in global health and health diplomacy.
- Assign health attachés to selected U.S. embassies for international cooperation, ensuring that political, security, development and health objectives are maximized
- Establish a Global Health Career Track within HHS to formalize career opportunities and training for people working in the global health arena, including in overseas assignments
- Partner with the Department of State to bolster knowledge about global health among the diplomatic corps
- Strengthen diplomatic knowledge, negotiation skills and understanding of development principles for HHS field staff and technical health experts
With support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the World Health Organization is working to increase vaccine production in 11 developing countries