Jan. 24, 2019 – Professor Sophie Harman from the School of Politics and International Relations has written an opinion piece for The Independent in which she argues that global health experts need new tools and political savvy to manage the post-expert world exemplified by Trump’s presidency.
Donald Trump must be loving the shutdown. Free to roam the White House grounds with barely a soul in sight. Fewer germs to be spread around. For Trump does not like germs; he doesn’t even like health workers who protect people from the spread of germs (“KEEP THEM OUT OF HERE”), and he wants to cut the budget of key agencies that monitor and control germs around the world.
He certainly does not want to be working with other states and “s***hole countries” to manage and respond to global health security threats.
Given the concern and threat to what could have been, global health has thus far gotten off lightly under the Trump administration. The president’s Emergency Plan for HIV/Aids Relief (Pepfar) – a vital intervention that has changed the game and prolonged millions of lives for people living with HIV/Aids around the world – was reauthorised in November 2018.
This prompted a major sigh of relief for the international HIV/Aids community.
Trump has said nothing on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Trump has said nothing on the sexual harassment scandal in the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids. In public at least, he does not care about global health.
But this should not detract from the more worrying aspect of his presidency and its implications for global health. Anti-expert, anti-gender, anti-human rights, and increasingly isolationist tendencies run contrary to many of the founding ideas of global health governance.
This year will see the global health community face increasing resistance from politicians and a public that has lost trust in experts, fact, and evidence. When Trump can show the kind of intransigence on display during this tough few weeks for US public workers, it is clear that we will need new tools and political savvy to manage this new, and post-expert, world.
This opinion piece was originally published by The Independent on 12 January 2019 and is drawn from a longer article with Sara E Davies ‘President Donald Trump as global health’s displacement activity’, published in the Review of International Studies.