‘The Future of Global Health Financing’: How do we grow investments? (Video)

On the heels of the Global Fund’s Fifth Replenishment launch in Montreal, Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Friends) brought together civil society, diplomatic and private sector leaders for an Oct. 6 panel discussion at Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), “The Future of Global Health Financing.”

The event was co-sponsored by Friends, Malaria No More and Nothing But Nets, and moderated by Dr. Jennifer Kates, KFF’s Vice President and Director of Global Health & HIV Policy. Panelists included: Ambassador Deborah Birx, Global AIDS Coordinator for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); Chris Collins, President of Friends; Dr. Nomonde Nolutshungu, Health Attaché for the Embassy of South Africa; Kate Roberts, Co-founder of the Maverick Collective; and Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, Global Malaria Coordinator for the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI).

Mr. Collins set the stage for the discussion by commending the recent launch of the Global Fund’s 2017-2019 Replenishment, at which world leaders pledged more than $12.9 billion to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria – the largest amount ever pledged at once in the fight against these diseases.

“U.S. leadership was absolutely critical in getting so close to the goal, and we want to thank the Obama Administration for continued support of the Global Fund,” Mr. Collins said.

He emphasized that the success of the Replenishment launch sends an important message, two months after a Kaiser Family Foundation report found that donor government funding to support HIV efforts in low- and middle-income countries fell for the first time in five years in 2015. The Replenishment launch served as the first test of donor commitment following that report, and demonstrates that the downward trend is reversible.

Mr. Collins also pointed out that, while the Replenishment is an important milestone, the $13 billion funding goal is consistent with only 80 percent of the funding needed to ultimately end the epidemics by 2030, even assuming sizable increases in domestic investment and sustained donor engagement.

“For all the progress we’ve made today, which is huge, it’s also true that the path forward in each of these three major infectious diseases has plenty of challenges,” he said. “It’s possible to end them, but now is the time to recommit, not to celebrate. We can’t afford to delay this conversation about investment and filling that gap in fully funding the responses to AIDS, malaria and TB.”

The panel addressed significant funding questions that are facing the global health community, such as: with new U.S. leadership on the horizon and as we continue to seek additional support for the Global Fund’s ongoing Replenishment cycle, how do we remake the case for increased investment in global health?

Ambassador Birx responded that, in addition to scaling up successful, data-driven health programs, health leaders need to better recognize the creative and innovative insights that the private sector brings to the table.

“People always talk about the money the private sector brings. That’s great, but we really want to broaden that tent of thinking,” Dr. Birx said. Specifically, the private sector excels at marketing to consumers under age 30 — the same age group that is at particularly high risk of HIV.

Dr. Birx noted that global health leaders have yet to make a business case to ministers of finance in developing countries, explaining why now is a crucial time to invest in the fight against these diseases. She encouraged advocates to help make that investment case by finding ways to share data that are clear and engaging.

“Help us visualize data better,” Dr. Birx said. “We’re measuring data, but you can’t manage it unless you can understand it and use it. An Excel spreadsheet or graph doesn’t make that happen. [We need visuals to] capture people’s imagination, to see themselves in that data and as part of those solutions.”

Dr. Nolutshungu of South Africa further underlined the need to make an investment case through data, particularly in developing countries where major increases in domestic financing will be crucial to ending epidemics. She noted that South Africa, for example, has increased its spending to fight HIV/AIDS by 27 percent over the last five years.

“What data has done is inform what we now have on the table to discuss with politicians and the private sector — an investment case,” Dr. Nolutshungu said. “It gives information to policymakers in terms of where to direct resources.”

Rear Admiral Ziemer stressed that, as a new U.S. Administration and Congress take office in 2017, it will be valuable to demonstrate that partnerships between the Global Fund and bilateral programs like PMI and PEPFAR provide a strong case study of high-impact U.S. investments.

“[PMI] works closely with the Global Fund at the headquarters level, the regional level and at the country level,” Admiral Ziemer said. “It is that country presence, working with country partners and the Global Fund, that help to leverage funding and look at country gaps. … The teamwork between the Global Fund and the U.S. government bilateral programs is intentional, effective, and keeps getting better. It is a model on how to do effective partnerships.”

Kate Roberts, who works closely with private sector partners through the recently launched Maverick Collective, expanded on Dr. Birx’s argument that private sector creativity will be necessary to maximize the impact of future global health investments. The Maverick Collective — which is working strategically with young philanthropists to pilot innovative solutions for women and girls — aims to expand such creativity to address health challenges and, ultimately, to help end extreme poverty.

“As a philanthropist, you need to use your whole net-worth, and that is not just money; that is your time, that is your talent,” Ms. Roberts said. “We believe that if we invest back into our philanthropists and they become truly inspired, effective health advocates, we will be able to move the needle on these issues in partnership with the Global Fund, PEPFAR, USAID and host countries.”

All panelists agreed that more can be done with more funding, and that partnership, innovation, scale-up of best practices and increased efficiencies among multilateral, bilateral, private sector and in-country partners will be key to ending the AIDS, TB and malaria epidemics, strengthening health infrastructure, and improving wellbeing for everyone.

For more on the challenges and opportunities on global health funding, watch the full conversation here.