The United States should invest more in developing-world health and science — a move that would bring bonuses such as fostering friendly relations with developing nations and restoring the US's international reputation, says Harold Varmus, co-chair of the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.
"I believe doing good things in health and science is not just for pragmatic interest. But investment in global health is in the national interest too," Varmus told The Times.
Varmus wants President Obama to endorse a US Institute of Medicine plan to double support for global health to US$15 billion by 2012 (see Obama 'should double global health spending').
He also believes in the importance of scientific exchange with developing country scientists and is in favour of recruiting a network of scientists willing to spend at least one year working in a developing country.
Science and health infrastructure in the developing world should also be addressed to curb brain drain, Varmus says.
"Even though we're in the middle of a terrible downturn at the moment, we lead much better lives than somebody who is struggling in an African village, and we have an ethical responsibility to do something about that. It doesn't take a lot our time and money to make a big difference."