There is a perception that global health programs take taxpayer dollars out of the U.S. and helps other countries but not us. This perception is incorrect.

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WE in the global health community are greatly encouraged by the work of Congress to increase funding to the National Institutes of Health and continue the Fogarty International Center’s mission to improve health around the world, as well as grow our next generation of researchers.

While the 2017 Fiscal Appropriations preserved the Fogarty International Center through the end of September, Congress will soon begin debating funding for 2018. And Fogarty may be on the chopping block again.

Fogarty was started in the 1960s to bring together thousands of “the best scientific minds around the world to address critical global health research problems.” Since its establishment, Fogarty has trained 26,136 people in medical research; it has been a cornerstone of training global health leaders. More than 244 students have received Fogarty funding at the University of Washington alone, including myself and many of my faculty colleagues. One UW Medicine scholar is now a minister of health in Liberia. Another is minister of health in Peru. Another is in charge of malaria programs at the World Health Organization.

Fogarty and similar federal research programs have helped propel the UW to become a leading center of global health research and policy. Nearly all of the effective modern interventions we now have to battle AIDS originated in international research the U.S. conducted with the support of federal funding in the 1980s-2000s. These advances have allowed HIV infected people to live longer, healthier lives, prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to babies, and protect people from contracting the virus. The same goes for diseases like small pox, Ebola, polio, tuberculosis and others.

So why would Congress want to slash funding for the Fogarty program and global health research?

There is a perception that global health programs take taxpayer dollars out of the U.S. and helps other countries but not us. This perception is incorrect.

Eighty percent of federal dollars funding global health research goes to U.S. institutions, and awards made to foreign institutions almost always include requirements to partner with U.S. investigators, who then receive those research dollars and jobs through the partnership. American industries supplying equipment and materials, producing chemicals and providing services to medical researchers have flourished and enhanced our economic growth.

The experience, skills, perspectives and innovations that internationally-trained American researchers bring back to the U.S. help them become leaders in industry, academia and public organizations. Investing in the training of foreign public-health personnel not only ensures highly skilled personnel will be in leadership positions during times of crisis, such as disease outbreaks and epidemics, but also helps spread our vision of diplomacy, collaboration and health equity globally.

Why should money to fund global health research come from federal sources rather than private companies? Because taxpayer-supported research helps guarantee that this work focuses on priorities aligned with improving our health and safety, rather than on profit margins. Private companies are often involved in international trials of vaccines and drugs, but have little motivation to address health concerns where there is no commercially viable product in sight.

When I look at the next generation of students, I wonder what will become of their dreams if the proposed deep cuts do go through. Global Health students are driven by a deep motivation to help others. They may have been touched by a loved one’s battle with cancer, disability or disease that sets them on their path in life. They see how global-health research advances this mission.

Who really loses if we turn our back on global health? We, the American people lose. We lose out on the innovative new medical interventions that could someday save our lives. We lose critical opportunities to grow the next generation of scientific leaders. And we make our country more vulnerable to devastating epidemics.