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By Catherine Cannon
Washington
16 December 2008

The Institute of Medicine says the United States needs to spend more money to help improve the health of people around the world. The Institute, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences, makes the recommendation in a report containing suggestions on global health policy for the incoming Obama administration.

Child being treated for malaria
Child being treated for malaria
Spending more money to treat and prevent the spread of AIDS, malaria and other diseases around the world is the main recommendation of the report released by the Institute of Medicine.

It says the U.S. should double its annual multibillion-dollar global health programs by 2012.

 "We're recommending a doubling of the global health commitment from $7.5 billion to $15 billion," said Dr. Ruth Levine of the Center for Global Development, who was on the board that released the report. "Which sounds like a lot, but it would actually still be a drop in the bucket in terms of responding to the needs."

Dr. Levine says in past five years the U.S contribution to global health has increased markedly - especially for the treatment of AIDS.

The funding has bought life-saving drugs and led to HIV prevention strategies that have benefited millions of people.

Dr. Ruth Levine
Dr. Ruth Levine
Dr. Levine says the incoming Obama administration must continue to support these existing global health programs. 

"The United States already is a leader," she said. "And so what we are saying is it can't shrink from that obligation that basically we have established for ourselves."

However, the report says the U.S. should allocate more money to fighting chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. This has been a neglected area yet it accounts for half of all deaths in developing countries.

"That's where you see our health problems being really similar in many ways to the health problems that are emerging in developing countries, and so we have a lot to offer in terms of treatments, in terms of knowledge about how to deal with diabetes, heart disease, cancer," Dr. Levine said.

Dr. Levine says meeting these global health goals will not be easy - noting that in times of financial crisis, foreign aid usually drops.

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