30 Apr 2011

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius: Research component can be very helpful for Russian-U.S. health cooperation

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, one of the key figures in the Barack Obama administration as she is in charge of health care reform, has spoken with Interfax about Russian-U.S. cooperation on health issues, as well as the U.S. health policy.

Question: What issues has the working group on health within the Russian-U.S. presidential commission centered on? Are there any practical results?

Answer: We held the second meeting on April 27. The first was in Washington. These issues are collaboration and cooperation on research, and in fact two days ago there was an agreement signed between the National Institute of Health and the Russian National Academy of Sciences to proceed on collaboration on research topics. We have discussions going on not only on maternity and child health issues – some of your experts in the room yesterday [] which is on our global health agenda – but also on noncommunicable disease issues, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and how to deal with tobacco. That was a large topic that we covered with the minister yesterday at the meeting of the health working group that was followed by the bilateral meeting with the health minister. We are both taking on tobacco challenges. And that became a very specific portion of our discussion. So, I think we have a number of deliverables that we are going to come out with the health working group that are going to be positive for both our countries.
The Text4baby which was launched in Russia a couple of months ago is also something we are working on in the United States, so that’s a project that has very tangible results for both of our countries. And in terms of agreement with the research ministers, there is meeting scheduled in Moscow in November as a follow-up to the agreement that was signed. So, it is both an agreement to continue to collaborate and the date of meeting has yet to be determined, but in November our scientists will come from both countries.

Q.: How would you evaluate the current status of collaboration between Russian and the U.S. in health and social spheres and what are the main directions of this cooperation?

A.: I think there is no question that we both have aging populations. We both have a recognition that health access and the standard of health access are important, so it’s a kind of clinic development that your health minister has talked about. We are also doing that in America. But certainly dealing with chronic diseases, sharing information, working on publicity of alcohol consumption, tobacco consumption are areas that both research and outreach efforts and practice on the ground will help collaboration.

Q.: We know that health reform is on in both Russia and the U.S. What is your personal impression of the status Russia’s health care and is there something in Russia that is used in the U.S.?

A.: Well, again I think that the fact that your prime minister was here at the health meeting, our president is very involved. We clearly have solved one of the hurdles which is getting our national leaders to pay attention to health, and I think that is a very positive sign for the health of our people. And also I think there is no question a lot of the issues that you are trying to put on in my conversation with Health Minister Golikova are how to deal with tobacco issues, how to get the attention of the population on various healthy lifestyle issues, and again lessons learnt and research to share. The research component can be very and very helpful for both our countries.

Q.: Another question is about the health reform in the U.S. We know it has strong opposition both in the Congress and certain states, and has become a subject to some political conflict. Will it be possible to implement it? And will the future presidential election define the extent to which it will be implemented?

A.: Well, I think that at least in our country presidents for 70 years, Republicans and Democrats, have tried to pass comprehensive health reform. And President Obama’s success in 2010 was a historic achievement and there is no question that are still people who would like to re-fight that battle. But we are working on full implementation, and it’s up to my department to lead that implementation effort. I’m sure it will be an ongoing topic of conversation until presidential elections, including presidential elections, because it’s one of the issues that President Obama campaigned on four years ago, ran on two years, has worked to pass in the Congress, is working to implement. So, I’m sure we will have a discussion of it in 2012.
But I would say as we began to implement it about a year ago into the new law. And as people began to receive the benefits, more individuals have access to affordable health insurance. Insurance companies have new rules, more health centers are being put together, seniors have additional benefits of medical care foreseeing, people now say they do not want to go back, they like the benefits and they see them, and I think it will continue to grow as we implement the law.