What do President Obama’s pick to become the next NATO commander in Afghanistan and the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) have in common? Besides boasting rather impressive resumes, they were both interviewed in the most recent issue of USAID FrontLines.

Lt. Gen. John Allen

Lt. Gen. John Allen

In the April-May edition, U.S. Lt. Gen. John Allen, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, and Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, answer questions about some of the most pressing topics in international development.

Allen, who served in Iraq during the period known as “the surge”, talks about how military and civilian forces can work together to multiply the success of a mission, and why development  is an extraordinarily effective tool in preventing conflict and fostering good will in the world.

He argues:

Those of us who’ve been honored to serve alongside development professionals understand that USAID delivers strategic effects which can strengthen U.S. relationships around the world and improve the qualities of governance, economic opportunity, and life for millions of our friends overseas. Interestingly, I would venture to guess that if you were to interview families from across the CENTCOM region, far more children have personally seen the USAID logo than have ever personally seen an American soldier. USAID has a significant impact and reach across our AOR [area of responsibility] and few understand that as well as the military.

In many respects, USAID’s efforts can do as much—over the long term—to prevent conflict as the deterrent effect of a carrier strike group or a marine expeditionary force.

In the Q&A with Chan, the doctor covers many health topics, including the need for primary care in developing nations – and the challenges organizations like USAID and the World Health Organization face in helping countries stand up their programs.

In my view, the best way [to improve global health] is to go back to the basics: the values, principles, and approaches of primary health care. Abundant evidence, over decades of experience, supports this view. Countries at similar levels of socioeconomic development achieve better health outcomes for the money when services are organized according to the principles of primary health care. A revitalization of primary health care is the smart move to make.

Dr. Margaret Chan Photo credit: WHO

Dr. Margaret Chan, Photo credit: WHO

To be frank, a smart move, in this case, is not an easy move. We are almost starting over from scratch. Over the past three decades, health systems in large parts of the developing world have crumbled from neglect. Countries and their development partners have failed to invest adequately in basic health infrastructures, capacities, and services, including staff education and training, regulatory capacity, procurement systems, and statistical services.

Read the complete interviews with Allen and Chan, as well as more stories about USAID’s work in Iraq and in global health in the April/May issue of FrontLines. If you would like to receive a reminder about the latest FrontLines, subscribe here.