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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
What the U.S. Gains from Global Health Research: 10/21/2013

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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The U.S. should fund medical research in other nations to prevent and control infectious diseases as well as accelerate the understanding of some non-infectious diseases, suggests an interesting commentary recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In the 20th century, Roger Glass M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center, explains the intent of most U.S. funded global medical and public health research was to prevent infectious diseases from entering the U.S. Dr. Glass finds (and we quote): “perhaps the most substantial accomplishment of this US investment was achieved in the program to eradicate smallpox’ (end of quote).  

In the decade between 1967-1977, Glass finds smallpox was eliminated globally for about $100 million. Glass writes (and we quote), ‘this global collaborative effort not only saved millions of lives but provided a return on investment estimated at 450-1 and still increasing every year’ (end of quote).

Glass explains more recent, similar global research partnerships and investments accelerated the diagnosis, treatment, and control of HIV/AIDS. Glass writes (and we quote):”Now that tens of millions of people have been screened and counseled and millions have received treatment, the concept that the AIDS epidemic could end in a generation has taken hold’ (end of quote).

However, Glass notes future international research efforts should focus on non-infectious diseases that universally impact  adults, adolescents, and children’s health. For example, Glass notes there are many globally significant noncommunicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity, diabetes, mental illness and addictions) that impact clinical and public health everywhere.

Glass emphasizes no country has the financial resources to solely fund the research to respond to these common clinical and public health challenges. As a result, Glass suggests future progress depends on international investment as well as coordinated and collaborative medical research. 

Glass writes (and we quote) ‘As the United States struggles to address (clinical and public health) problems, some novel solutions may be found abroad’ (end of quote). For instance, Glass explains important insights may be discovered about overscreening, overdiagnosing and overtreatment for some common diseases by comparing the U.S. to nations with lower medical costs and similar life expectancies.

Glass suggests (and we quote) ‘This is exactly the time when the United States needs to partner globally – for good ideas, outstanding investigators, unique populations, and extraordinary opportunities to speed discoveries’ (end of quote).

Glass concludes (and we quote) ‘Through global health research, new treatments, preventive strategies, and cures may be rapidly identified for many of the diseases that people around the globe share and for which prevention and treatment could lead to longer, healthier lives’ (end of quote).

Meanwhile, MedlinePlus.gov’s international health health topic page provides comprehensive information about preventing infectious diseases as well as other health challenges. For example, there are links to websites with information about infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and the flu within the ‘specific conditions’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s international health health topic page. Similarly, there are links to information about common, global public health challenges, such as human trafficking, within the ‘specific conditions’ section.

An overview (from the Fogarty International Center) about how to build more capacity to fund medical research — with multinational support — is available in the ‘research’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s international health health topic page.

A guide to global health issues (from the U.S. Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention) is available in the ‘overviews’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s international health health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov’s international health health topic page also provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about international (or global) health as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov’s international health health topic page, type ‘international health’] in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page. Then, click on ‘international health (National Library of Medicine).’ MedlinePlus.gov additionally features health topic pages on traveler’s health and health systems.

It is insightful to review the advantages of a multidimensional approach to address global health issues — and Dr. Glass’ ideas are a step in the right direction.

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