Published: 06/03/2020

Dear Global Health Colleagues,

We are in the midst of an unimaginable time where actions taken by political leadership in the US are a loss for America and the world. Americans are speaking out loudly against injustice and structural racism. We believe strongly in the rights for peaceful protest and we acknowledge the inextricable links with the coronavirus pandemic, which disproportionately affects African Americans and LatinX Americans.

We also firmly believe that the role of the World Health Organization (WHO) is imperative in leading a coordinated global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the US Administration’s decision to withdraw financial support from the WHO is detrimental. The WHO plays an invaluable role in the pandemic response as well as other health outcomes particularly in Low-and-Middle Income Countries, and they must be empowered and supported. We are worried in this turmoil this US defunding and departing will be overlooked. We want to offer ideas of things we can do in peaceful protest.

We offer you the following action items to advocate for support on these two extremely important issues:

Funding to WHO: I have been advised by my contacts in the US Senate to send letters to Senator Lindsey Graham opposing the decision to withdraw funding from the WHO. He is in charge of the appropriations committee making this decision. Here is a link to a form that will get to him. The headline message could read: “World Health Organization: Do Not Defund; Do Not Depart. Here is an amazing legal argument by Harold Koh as to why it is Not Too Late.

Systemic Racism: A quick email to your elected representatives (in the city/county where you are registered to vote) is a way to speak out on this topic. I recommend you reach out to the representatives from the city where you reside currently.

  • For those who live in Menlo Park, Stanford, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Mountain view – here is a list of your representatives
  • For those who live in Redwood City, San Mateo, Foster City, and points north – here is a list of your representatives
  • For those who are registered to vote outside of these two districts, you can use one of the links above and enter your zip code/city/State and find your representatives.

If you link to your senators and your congresswoman’s official websites, you should be able to easily navigate to their email addresses. If you’ve never written to your representatives, the APA has a nice summary of suggestions on how to generate an effective letter and what happens to your communications once received.

Your letter to representatives can share your expectations that efforts to be made to combat the deeply rooted institutionalized racism and inequity in opportunity that exists in our regions. It only takes 15-20 minutes to draft a letter and send it along – and your opinions and comments are tallied by your representatives’ offices, which is an important factor in your representatives understanding what their constituents need and expect.

In addition, there are several organizations that are supporting the fight against racial injustice. If you are able, please consider donating to one.

Thank you for your consideration and your commitment to equity. We stand in solidarity with our partners in Low and Middle-Income Countries, and our African American friends, families, colleagues, and community to end institutional and personal racism and injustice. We also recognize the stress that everyone is under at this time, and we hope you are taking good care of yourselves.


Michele Barry

Drs. Ben and A. Jess Shenson Professor of Medicine and Tropical Diseases
Director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health
Senior Associate Dean for Global Health, Stanford University