By: Mary Lou Valdez, M.S.M., and Kristin Wedding
Do you think it’s possible to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all people of all ages by 2030? That’s just one of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the world’s leaders agreed to in September 2015. And, FDA has an important role in supporting these goals.
On June 23-24, 2016, we had the opportunity to participate in the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Forum on Public-Private Partnerships for Global Health and Safety (PPP Forum). The two-day workshop focused on engaging the private sector and developing partnerships to advance health and the SDGs.
Good health and well-being are linked to many of the SDGs, including zero hunger, ending poverty, economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, and reduced inequalities. But what, you might ask, are FDA’s potential contributions as a regulatory agency in achieving the SDGs?
Regulatory Systems and the SDGs: the Challenges
Strong functioning regulatory systems for food and medical products are at the nexus of public health, economic development, trade, and investment. Within our public health mission, effective regulatory systems often are a necessary precursor for economic development and growth, including private sector investment. Conversely, the absence of effective regulatory systems is an underlying threat to achieving many of the SDGs. For example:
- unsafe food contributes to malnutrition and jeopardizes food security (Goal 2);
- lack of access to safe and effective medical treatments exacerbates chronic diseases (Goal 3), and impedes people from getting and keeping a job (Goal 8).
- illness hampers children’s learning and school attendance (Goal 4), and often disproportionately impacts girls (Goal 5); and,
- insufficient access to clean water and sanitation (Goal 6) results in the death of more than 1,000 children each day from preventable diarrheal diseases.
Regulatory Systems and the SDGs: the Opportunities
At the workshop, FDA chaired an expert panel on the critical role of regulatory systems and PPPs in promoting global public health, economic development, and sustainable investments to achieve the SDGs. We were joined by Dr. Juergen Voegele of the World Bank, Dr. Rajeev Venkayya of Takeda Pharmaceuticals, and Dr. Dan Hartman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Despite our diversity, we sent a unified message that regulatory systems are essential drivers for the success and sustainability of global health investments to meet the SDGs. It is the responsibility of all of us – as stakeholders, donors, and partners – to make our investments matter.
FDA participates in a number of global partnerships aimed at strengthening regulatory systems, including the World Bank-led Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) the PPP Forum, as well as our work with multilateral institutions such as the World Health Organization.
We look forward to continuing the discussion about future pathways for collaboration and action in demonstrating the critical roles regulatory systems play in the attainment of the SDGs. The public health of U.S. citizens – and others around the globe – can benefit from our efforts now and in the future.
As Dr. Hartman so aptly noted during the panel session, in this time of globalization “efficient and effective regulatory systems are the tide that raises all boats.”
Mary Lou Valdez, M.S.M., is FDA’s Associate Commissioner for International Programs
Kristin Wedding is International Policy Analyst in FDA’s Office of International Programs