Through his proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 budget, President Barack Obama has taken a strong and positive stance in support of global efforts to eliminate the tremendous human suffering caused by infectious and neglected tropical diseases.

The FY 2011 budget proposes $155 million to “deliver treatments for seven of the highly prevalent neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) through targeted mass drug administration and training of community-based and professional health care workers,” while $700 million has been designated for maternal and child health programs which place “prevention and treatment of diarrhea, pneumonia and newborn infections” as priority intervention areas.

The Sabin Vaccine Institute applauds the Obama administration’s commitment to fight and prevent these preventable and treatable diseases and also recognizes the tremendous strides that can be made beyond a reduction in mortality and disease burden rates.

The common determinant for many of the populations suffering from diseases and infections like human hookworm infection, lymphatic filariasis, pneumococcal disease, and rotavirus, is poverty. The world’s bottom billion—individuals living on less than $1.25 a day—lack access to the medications and vaccines that would prevent and treat these diseases. And without an opportunity to live a productive and healthy life, these individuals are trapped in a cycle of poverty which leads to high unemployment, tension over scarce resources, and increased conflict on both a local and global scale.

The impact of investments in global health, such as research and development of vaccines and increased access to medications and health facilities can interrupt that cycle. Controlling lymphatic filariasis in India would add $1.5 billion to the country’s annual GNP; immunization can prevent congenital rubella which is associated with deafness, blindness and severe mental retardation; and deworming is the single most cost-effective means of improving school attendance.

Reducing maternal mortality by 30 percent, under-five mortality by 35 percent, and the prevalence of the 7 most common NTDs by 50 percent among 70 percent of the affected population are all laudable and achievable goals but we stand to gain so much more by sufficiently investing in the Global Health Initiative.

If President Obama’s FY 2011 budget is passed through Congress the United States will not only make great strides in global health, but will also help lift the world’s bottom billion out of poverty. Greater investments in global health will correlate with greater trade, development, and diplomacy efforts.

Should Congress commit to fully funding the administration’s FY 2011, they will commit to improving the living standards of the world’s bottom billion and Americans alike.

Peter Hotez, MD PhD