Sebelius: It's a small world after all—and getting smaller

The U.S. can no longer separate the nation's health from the health of the world.

That was the message from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Thursday morning at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, where she spoke about HHS' Global Health Strategy.

For those who believe HHS should limit its responsibilities and actions within the country's borders, consider these statistics that Sebelius shared: About half of our fruit and more than three-quarters of our seafood is imported from overseas—and often from countries with far fewer safety controls in place.

Meanwhile, 6.4 million international passengers arrived at Dulles Airport in 2010, compared with 26,000 international passengers in 1963. “More than a million people drive across our borders, dock in our ports, or land in our airports every day, and any one of them could bring a new virus or bug with them,” Sebelius said.

That makes the case for HHS' Global Health Strategy (2011-2015), which has three goals and 10 objectives. The goals are to protect and promote the health and well-being of Americans through global health action; to provide leadership and technical expertise in science, policy, programs and practice to improve global health; and to advance U.S. interests in international diplomacy, development and security through global health action. The objectives include things like preventing infectious diseases and other health threats, addressing the changing global patterns of death, illness and disability, and identifying and exchanging best practices to strengthen health systems.

“When we talked about global health in the past, what HHS really meant is health in other parts of the globe—outside the United States' borders,” Sebelius told attendees at the event. “And today that world has changed dramatically. We can no longer separate global health from America's health.”

Follow Jessica Zigmond on Twitter @MHJZigmond.



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