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The U.S. Congress and Global Health: A Primer

Kaiser Family Foundation – “The U.S. Congress, the legislative body of the U.S. government (USG), plays an important role in determining and shaping the government’s global health policy and programs. Although only one of many USG entities involved in global health, its engagement has been particularly notable over the last 15 years, which have been marked by unprecedented bipartisan support for U.S. global health efforts and resulted in the authorization of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. government’s coordinated response to global HIV and the largest program focused on a single global health issue in the world, as well as the appropriation of significantly increased funding. Indeed, Congress fulfills a key role in U.S. global health policy by setting the broad parameters and priorities of U.S. global health programs, determining their funding levels, and overseeing the implementation and effectiveness of supported efforts. Its activities in this area are complemented and influenced to varying degrees by those of numerous stakeholder groups and individuals that, while not examined in this primer, are key actors in the policymaking process. Such stakeholders include: advocates, the private sector, think tanks, academic institutions, religious communities and organizations, people directly affected by global health issues (such as people living with HIV), and others. To help shed light on Congress’ role in global health, this primer provides an overview of its engagement in this area, aiming to provide a basic framework with which congressional efforts may be understood. First, it examines the structure of Congress and its role and key activities in global health, which range from authorizing the creation of and providing funding for U.S. global health programs to engaging in program oversight and confirming presidential appointees to lead these efforts. It then illustrates these by examining selected legislative activities for two global health examples: the creation and evolution of PEPFAR and the 2014/2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Finally, it discusses opportunities and challenges related to congressional engagement in global health going forward.”

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