The United States presidential election is important for global health for many reasons, including that Senator Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the US to the World Health Organization (WHO) on his first day as President, if elected in November.
Biden’s commitment follows news that President Donald Trump has formally notified the United Nations of his well-publicised plans to withdraw the US from the WHO, taking effect in July 2021.
As previously reported at Croakey (see here and here), health and medical experts around the world have been vociferous in warning that this would be disastrous for global health, harming the world’s capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other pressing health threats.
The George Institute for Global Health said it was dismayed by the decision, which “will directly place millions of additional lives at risk around the world”.
“We strongly urge US political leaders to immediately reverse this decision,” the Institute said in a statement.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians and American Medical Association have jointly expressed their strong opposition.
The American Medical Association warned that the move puts health in the US at grave risk, and was “a major setback to science, public health, and global coordination efforts needed to defeat COVID-19”.
“We call on Congress to reject the Administration’s withdrawal from the WHO and make every effort to preserve the United States’ relationship with this valued global institution,” the Association said in a statement on 7 July.
“Now is the time to invest in global health, rather than turn back.”
Public health leaders in Australia have previously urged the Australian Government to “firmly resist” Trump’s move, stating that a stronger WHO is in our national interest.
In a media briefing on 7 July, WHO’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus again stressed the importance of national unity and global solidarity in fighting the pandemic, which has now claimed more than 535,000 lives with 11.4 million cases of COVID-19 reported globally.
He said WHO experts will travel to China this weekend to prepare scientific plans with their Chinese counterparts for identifying the zoonotic source of the disease. They will develop the scope and terms of reference for a WHO-led international mission investigating animal hosts for COVID-19 and how the disease jumped between animals and humans.
He also said WHO is deeply concerned about the pandemic’s impact on the global response to HIV, with 73 countries reporting they risk running out of antiretroviral medicines.
Comments from Twitter
Read the Nature article cited above.
Also see this Twitter thread by Nature reporter Amy Maxman.
Meanwhile, this tweet from 30 May by VicHealth’s CEO Dr Sandro Demaio has had 2,000 likes.
A stronger World Health Organization is in Australia’s national interests
Trump’s latest move against WHO an assault on global health and safety
How an unconscionable act by Trump created a chorus of support for the WHO
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