The Foreign Service Journal - May 2017
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MAY 2017



Leveraging Expertise Across the U.S. Government

Many U.S. government agencies work in the health sector.

Some have a domestic focus while others, like USAID, have a

specific international mandate. This international expertise and

technical capacity can be harnessed in times of crisis, as was

demonstrated in the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

At that time, USAID was already working with the govern-

ment of Liberia to provide primary care services to a third of its

population. Foreign Service Officer Bethany Geddis joined the

mission in Liberia in 2012 to manage USAID’s relationship with

the government. “When Ebola crossed the border into Liberia,

USAID was in a position to immediately work with the Ministry of

Health on a rapid response,” says Geddis. “Our in-country pres-

ence, long-established relationships and role as a trusted techni-

cal partner in health laid a solid foundation for the interagency to

quickly respond.”

USAID worked with the Department of Defense and the U.S.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish training

protocols for Ebola treatment unit staffers and placement of labo-

ratories. Adapting protocols for infection, prevention and control

in Ebola treatment and health clinics leveraged CDC’s technical

expertise, USAID’s relationships and DoD’s training capabilities.

“Working together, we were able to quickly roll out a new set

of protocols and associated training for health care workers,” says

Geddis. USAIDwas also able to ensure that these protocols were

institutionalized into the health system after the initial outbreak.

Further, she said, “USAIDworked with Defense to ensure that

mobile labs coming into the country were placed in rural areas that

had the capacity tomaintain them (even if temporarily) and were

aligned with the Ministry of Health’s national laboratory plan.”

According to Adams, many multi-stakeholder initiatives in

global health are an outgrowth of partnerships with different

U.S. government agencies. She points to the Global Alliance for

Vaccines and Immunizations; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS,

Tuberculosis and Malaria; and the Global Financing Facility and

Family Planning 2020 as examples of global health initiatives in

which the U.S. government has tremendous influence and clout.

Promoting Core American Values

Foreign Service officers want to make a positive contribution

to United States foreign policy objectives. Those who choose to

work in global health are also driven by a desire to alleviate the

suffering of others and improve the lives of the most vulnerable.

They often see their careers as more of a calling than a duty.

“Many of us who work in the health development field feel

strongly that people all over the world should have the oppor-

tunity for a better life,” notes Panther. “In the health sector, this

translates into improved family health and well-being, which

plays a significant role in lifting people out of abject poverty.

Community service is a big part of the American way of life, and

what better community to serve than the world community,

especially those who live in extreme poverty?”

Many Foreign Service health officers start their careers

in the Peace Corps, serving in remote areas of impoverished

countries, where they witness firsthand what it means to lack

access to basic health services and to die of easily preventable

diseases. While Foreign Service health officers want to put an

end to needless suffering, they are also conscientious about U.S.

government spending and accountability. Good governance,

open data, transparency, and careful management and oversight

of resources are among the values they try to instill through their

work in global health.


U.S. leadership in global health

often sets the tone, pushing

other countries to take health

issues seriously and to establish

commitments on a global level.

Jennifer Adams (second from right), USAID acting assistant

administrator for global health, with other members of the Food

and Drug Board of Ghana.