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Health diplomacy also offers a much-needed opportunity for building bridges between the governments of the world and the private sector, synergizing efforts of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), allowing them to work together to improve public health.

Building such links between nations can facilitate communications in other areas, increasing trust and confidence and helping improve overall relations. Countries cannot achieve political stability or flourish economically with unhealthy people, and when average life expectancy is 38. Lasting peace is impossible where there are extreme disparities in health and wealth. That is why health can be a common currency among nations to help achieve a better future — reducing inequalities that lead to hopelessness, anger and despair.

The growing dissatisfaction amongst Americans about our over-reliance on military power internationally reminds us of the potential for the field of health diplomacy to improve global health and cooperation. And the words of President John F. Kennedy remind us why this agenda is so important: “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

Our common quest for good health knows no borders. Crossing countries, politics and cultures, health diplomacy recognizes the increasing interdependence of nations and our shared humanity.

Susan J. Blumenthal, M.D.,a retired rear admiral in the Public Health Service is a former assistant surgeon general of the United States and deputy assistant secretary for health. She is a clinical professor at Georgetown University Schools of Medicine and distinguished adviser for health and medicine at the Center for the Study of the Presidency (CSP). Elise Schlissel, a junior at Princeton University is a heath policy intern at CSP.