• Emily Gilmore

Why Dr. Rajiv Shah is Optimistic About the Future of Global Healthcare

Updated: May 29, 2019

President of the Rockefeller Foundation Dr. Rajiv Shah spoke at UNF Tuesday night calling for “political will” in the realm of global healthcare while remaining optimistic about the future.

“Success is driven by the marriage of science, data, and deep political will,” Shah stated.

This belief is evident in Shah’s work. Shah previously led numerous projects under President Obama, including the Feed the Future, which gave assistance to an estimated 23.4 million people who are now living above the poverty line according to Shah was also part of the Obama Administration’s U.S. Department of Agriculture as undersecretary and chief scientist.

With both medical and business degrees, Shah now works as administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which aims to end poverty globally. He has guided “more than 9,600 professionals in 80 missions around the world,” according to

The political focus early in Shah’s career translates into his drive to include governments in his projects today. Shah claims that it is within our control to tackle challenges with political will.

“It’s easy to take for granted that people will do this stuff anyway,” Shah says. “They won’t.”

Shah cites the Cholera crisis instigated by civil war in Yemen as an example of the importance of politics in healthcare. When governments fall apart, Shah says, pandemic diseases reemerge.

“It is a crisis of human making,” he says. “At the end of the day solving global health and global equity challenges around the world is not just a humanitarian or a science-based issue. It takes real political will. In our case it takes working with the military or working with our diplomats and addressing the root causes.”

Despite this, technology allows Shah to be optimistic about the future of global healthcare. “We are on the cusp of a technological revolution that absolutely allows us to be optimistic about the future,” Shah says.

Rwanda, for example, makes Shah “very, very hopeful.” Rwanda is the first country in the world to have large scale drone-based deliveries of blood donations and medical assistance. Shah claims that this is partially responsible for the fastest reduction of deaths of children under five over the last ten years.

“As long as we maintain this strong bipartisan, nonpartisan support in this effort I think America can continue to lead this global fight for justice and equity,” Shah says.

This optimism was appreciated by audience member Betty. “I thought it was really informative. I really enjoyed it,” she says.

Audience member Nathan Thompson is an International Studies Flagler student who came to Shah’s speech to see how it relates to his field. “I think it’s interesting to hear from someone who has been directly involved in it and what he thinks we can do.”

Shah concluded by reflecting back on the importance of political action. “If there’s one message I leave you with tonight, it’s please help us maintain an area of American foreign policy presence that has been defined for our country for decades and is delivering exceptional value for the investments we make.”

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