September 21, 2022

Lee, Schakowsky, Ruiz Introduce Dr. Paul Farmer Memorial Resolution Outlining 21st Century Global Health Strategy

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36), and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) introduced the Dr. Paul Farmer Memorial Resolution, to honor Dr. Farmer’s staggering life and legacy and lay out his extraordinary vision for realizing global health equity. This resolution lays out a 21st century global health strategy that proposes significantly increasing global health aid to $125 billion per year, reforming aid to focus on building national health systems, and putting an end to the exploitation of impoverished countries to increase their domestic tax base and health spending. This resolution seeks to save over 100 million lives per decade by increasing the flow of money in the global economy.

“Dr. Paul Farmer is responsible for transforming the lives of millions and millions of poor and marginalized people around the world, bringing them health care, dignity, and justice. A true visionary, Paul insisted that all people have a right to excellent health care, and he developed the systems to deliver it in places people had written off. Gleaming world class hospitals and locally trained doctors, nurses, and community workers now exist in places like Haiti and Rwanda. Paul was not only a world-renowned leader in global health, but also a precious friend and a tireless organizer, inspiring thousands of people to actively participate in his work. All of us owe him a debt that can only be paid by carrying on his mission and legacy,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. “That is why I am introducing the Dr. Paul Farmer Memorial Resolution alongside my colleagues Representatives Ruiz and Lee. This resolution lays out a 21st Century Global Health Strategy that enshrines Paul’s vision to achieve global universal health care and end unnecessary and preventable deaths.  We are the richest country in the world at the richest time in the world. Paul called on us to understand global health inequity as an injustice—a result of centuries of violence and exploitation inflicted on the global poor. We can make the choice to end global health inequity, and with Paul’s vision guiding us, we will.”

“Dr. Paul Farmer was a visionary in global health, crusader for health equity, and accomplished physician with an unparalleled passion for social justice,” said Dr. Raul Ruiz. “He was also my Harvard Medical School mentor, professor, and friend. I am honored to help introduce this resolution in his memory, which serves as a testament to all that he has done and achieved in global health."

“Dr. Paul Farmer was a public health icon whose vision and impact changed millions of lives across Haiti, West Africa, and the world. A caring, loving human being whose work wasn’t just a job, but a mission. He understood the need to work in partnership with all countries, at all income levels, to encourage global investment in health as a public good,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “I am proud to introduce this resolution alongside Reps. Schakowsky and Ruiz to honor his life and legacy for posterity and create a framework for others to follow in our pursuit of equity. May Paul rest in peace.”

The proposals in the resolution are as follows:

  • Increase global health aid to $125 billion per year
    • Close the essential universal health care financing gap for low-income countries
    • Allow the U.S. to meet the U.N. aid target of 0.7% GNI for the first time ever
  • Reform global health aid
    • Focus on building national health systems and direct funding to local partners, not the development industry
    • Develop new medical technologies for diseases of poverty and ensure their availability as global public goods
  • Make the global economy more fair, just, and democratic
    • Democratizing the IMF, World Bank, and World Trade Organization, so that poor countries have greater say over decisions that affect their economies and their ability to finance health systems
    • Global debt cancelation for all developing countries that need it
    • Ending harmful licit and illicit financial flows from poor countries—ending global tax havens and illegal practices like trade misinvoicing
    • Supporting global labor rights, such as a global minimum wage

As an infectious disease physician, Dr. Farmer earned accolades for treating patients in impoverished countries with high quality care, including those suffering from HIV and cancer. As a medical anthropologist, he was known for popularizing and deepening understandings of “structural violence,” the idea that social systems are designed to impoverish, sicken, and sideline select groups. As chief strategist of Partners in Health, he garnered plaudits for pioneering community-based treatment strategies, building teaching hospitals, and more. Dr. Farmer called on us to understand global health inequity as an injustice—an effect of centuries of violence and exploitation inflicted on the global poor. This resolution embodies that and will serve as a North Star that will guide the movement for global health equity for years to come.