By Jenny Eaton Dyer, PhD
May 24, 2019
Last month, I had the privilege of joining the annual SwitchPoint conference in Saxapahaw, NC (right outside of Chapel Hill) along with some other prominent speakers including Toyin Ojora Saraki, Foundation-President of Wellbeing Foundation Africa; Dr Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO of Amref Health Africa; Emily Hillman, a senior innovation advisor in the Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact within USAID’s Bureau for Global Health; and Julia Bunting, President of the Population Council.
While there, I spoke on “The Role of U.S. Faith Leaders in Advocacy for Global Health,” which highlighted the history of conservative faith leaders since 2002 and their awareness raising, education, and advocating for funding to fight global AIDS, TB, and Malaria; support international family planning; and rally an increase in funding for global nutrition. I highlighted the work of prominent pastors, authors, artists, athletes, nonprofit leaders, and academicians who have taken a stand for global health over the past three Administrations. The rise of their support parallels the increase and plateauing of funding over the past almost twenty years.
Moreover, with an Administration calling for a 24% cut in funding overall for global health and international affairs, these faith leaders have responded with letters, phone calls, and emails to Congress asking them to dismiss these recommendations and protect or increase the levels of funding from previous years.
Following this plenary “TED-talk” presentation, I also had the opportunity to conduct a MicroLab on “Faith in Action” with colleagues Pamela McQuide and Babacar Gueye at Intrahealth. At this interactive session, we conducted skits, led discussions, showed video, and lectured a bit on how faith to engage faith leaders and faith-based organizations in global health.
For my role, I was able to show a clip from Jonathan Haidt’s TED talk on the Moral Foundations of “The Righteous Mind” and then discuss specifically the values of conservatives and how those values can provide a platform to talk about the importance of global health. Haidt’s research provides a kind of guide for “cultural diplomacy,” for conservatives or progressives, and how best to “speak the language” to educate and activate leaders for global health issues on either side of the aisle from a moral perspective.