Arthur Ammann discusses the role of the Fogarty International Center in implementing the discoveries at the NIH to improve health in low-income countries.
The budget proposal from the White House has put funding for the Fogarty International Center in danger, and with it research programs and the training of individuals engaged in healthcare in low-income countries. The timing could not be worse. The threat of new global diseases is evident, old ones have reemerged, and chronic diseases have increased. The need for trained health professionals could not be more urgent as diseases outpace the ability to train adequate numbers of additional healthcare workers, teachers, and researchers in low-income countries. This is where the Fogarty plays an essential role. I saw a dramatic illustration of Fogarty’s reach at an International Conference on HIV prevention attended by over 1,000 delegates from developing countries. During the closing ceremony Ken Bridbord MD, Fogarty’s director of training and research programs at that time, asked all those in the audience who had received training from the Fogarty programs to stand. Fully one third of the delegates stood as the contributions of the Fogarty International Center to health-related training in low-income countries were acknowledged.
The Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health was established in 1968 in honor of Congressman John E. Fogarty to advance studies in international research and training. In the almost 50 years since, Fogarty’s international research and training programs have grown, extending to more than 100 countries including, Botswana, Romania, Tanzania, Uganda, Cambodia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Philippines, New Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Zambia, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Chile, Indonesia, and Malawi. It has engaged more than 5,000 health professionals in the U.S. and in low-income countries. At first glance the number of those trained may seem large, but they must be viewed in the context of what is needed.
The importance of the Fogarty cannot be overlooked or diminished. While not of the magnitude, size, or funding support of the much larger NIH Institutes, such as the National Cancer Institutes or the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Fogarty plays perhaps the most critical role in implementation. Without implementation, the vast number of discoveries in disease prevention and treatment that have resulted from NIH supported research will have a limited impact globally. It is here where the role of the Fogarty is most important—taking the research discoveries from NIH institutes and NIH supported research at academic centers and translating them into efficient and practical applications through healthcare professionals supported by the Fogarty International Center. It makes no sense to leave the implementation of lifesaving research discoveries to chance. The influence of the Fogarty International Center and its healthcare programs and training in low-income countries is great but for too long, it has been the recipient of only modest amounts of funding. Any reductions in funding would have a disproportionate impact on global health in low-income countries.
The Fogarty International Center’s vision is, “…a world in which the frontiers of health research extend across the globe and advances in science are implemented to reduce the burden of disease, promote health, and extend longevity for all people.” It is a vision that must continue uninterrupted and undiminished if we are to succeed in our determination to bring research discoveries to those in the poorest countries of the world through the ambassadors of health produced by Fogarty International training programs.
Arthur J Ammann, MD is a Pediatrician and an advocate for the health of vulnerable women and children for more than 50 years. He is a founder of Global Strategies and author of the recently released book on the 35 year history of the Pediatric AIDS epidemic: Lethal Decision. The Unnecessary Deaths of Women and Children from HIV/AIDS. Read more from Dr. Ammann at Ethics in Health.