In the past year, IIGH has stepped up its policy engagement with government officials, particularly in Washington DC, where equity has gained traction in the U.S. government’s domestic and foreign policy. Our policy engagement leverages our research and teaching to engage officials on concrete ways to embed equity and equality into policies, financing, programs, and diplomacy impacting health.
Through public events and brokering policy dialogues, we are providing a platform for health equity advocates from around the world to pose questions and convey recommendations in dialogue with influential policy officials. We connect global, national and local actors, convening spaces in which countries and communities can learn from each other in a spirit of cooperation, outside the economic, political, and racial hierarchies that too often pervade the field of global health. We are proud of our ability to produce and convene policy events aimed at engaging U.S. officials in issues of advancing health equity within U.S. global diplomacy, programs, and investments.
Centering Health Equity
While health has ascended in the U.S. foreign policy space in recent decades, health equity has not yet enjoyed such an ascent. IIGH continues to call attention to issues of health equity through our events and programming. In March 2022, IIGH Director of Policy Engagement Prof. Jonathan Cohen delivered a public lecture outlining a new concept of Global Health Equity Diplomacy. This new paradigm would require a different justification for the place of health in foreign policy, as well as new set of priorities and programs for U.S. global health. Prof. Cohen’s lecture anchored a series of IIGH events aimed at applying the equity agenda to U.S. foreign policy in health, including panels with U.S. officials and targeted policy engagement on issues such as the Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.
In the fall, IIGH convened a conversation with global health equity leaders from the U.S. government (Representative Barbara Lee and Assistance Secretary for Global Affairs Loyce Pace), the World Health Organization (Pascale Allotey) and Kenyan civil society (Allan Maleche) to discuss and capitalize on the historic opportunity offered by the Biden-Harris administration to embed equity into U.S. global health investments and diplomacy. Participants discussed what it means in practice to position health equity as a U.S. foreign policy priority.
Linking the Local to the Global
IIGH has embraced its role as a nexus for furthering conversations and awareness around the links between global health issues and what happens in the state of California. Last winter, IIGH hosted California Congressional representatives Judy Chu and Katie Porter for a dynamic conversation which included attention to why California voters and taxpayers should pay attention to the issue of global health. The conversation bridged global health priorities with the local needs of people in California and across the United States with a focus on COVID-19, illustrating the far-reaching effects of federal US action on population health within southern California and in countries beyond the U.S.
Other recent highlights
Supporting the G20 Joint Finance-Health Task Force
IIGH Policy Engagement Director Jonathan Cohen recently participated in “An Accountable Global Health Financing Fund: Ensuring Equity, Fairness and Sustainability,” a closed-door roundtable hosted by the G20 Health and Development Partnership and Prof. Mariana Mazzucato, Chair of the WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All. The roundtable aimed to support the activities of the newly created G20 Joint Finance-Health Task Force (JFHTF) and discussions on how to best achieve the goals set out in the G20 Leaders Communique in Rome in October 2021.
Advancing the rights of intersex infants and children
USC IIGH has partnered closely with leading activist organizations Intersex Australia and GATE to expand the evidence base and bring increased attention to the health and human rights issues of “sex normalization surgeries” on intersex infants. In collaboration with the World Health Organization, we co-authored a narrative synthesis which presents a comprehensive summary of the literature on surgeries on intersex infants and children and supports discussion on how best to serve the needs, rights, and health of intersex people. This report is intended to support community consultations in the coming year, which will seek to determine a path forward to address the health and rights issues raised by these surgeries.
Pushing for better border policy
The nexus between climate change and migration produces the greatest suffering among those least able and equipped to withstand its effects. In January 2022, the Keck Human Rights Clinic joined dozens of organizations in calling on the Biden administration to align its border policy with its responsibility to climate refugees. As outlined in a letter to the administration, the administration’s policy of preventing migration through deterring border crossings needlessly and cruelly exposes migrants to the effects of climate- induced extreme heat, causing severe health complications and death. IIGH advised the Keck Human Rights Clinic on their letter and on strategies for engaging government officials on a more humane approach to the southern border.