During the 2011-12 Winter Intersession I was able to travel to New Delhi, India on an International Travel Grant from the ILR School. I spent my month in New Delhi working with the Centre for Development and Human Rights (CDHR), a not-for-profit research organization that focuses on promoting the Right to Development in India and across the world. Along with conducting research for CDHR, I was able to attend seminars, meet some of the leading activists of India, and explore the city of New Delhi. My experience in India was a great use of the education I am receiving at ILR and was also a perfect complement to my minor in South Asian Studies.
My main project while interning with CDHR was to research and write an advocacy piece for the Health Impact Fund. The Health Impact Fund (HIF) is a proposal written by Aidan Hollis and Thomas Pogge, the directors of the nonprofit organization, Incentives for Global Health. The HIF is structured as a pay-for-performance mechanism that rewards the positive impact a pharmaceutical has on the health of individuals, rather than the traditional goal of maximizing the amount of the pharmaceuticals sold. The HIF is designed to be an alternative option to the traditional process of monopolistic control on the supply and price of a patented product and would be an attractive track for companies whose patented product will have a positive impact on large amount of individuals’ health.
Learning the foundations of the HIF proposal was extremely interesting, as the central pillar to the Fund—to provide market incentives for pharmaceutical companies to invest into eradicating neglected diseases—was based on neoclassical economics. International relations and globalism were also key factors in the proposal, as governments would fund the HIF, requiring a dynamic and cooperative North-South partnership. Lastly, accurate assessment and reporting of the health impact of products registered under the HIF is essential to the success of the Fund, and requires oversight and regulation of the assessors. These aspects of economics, globalization, law, and policy that were critical to my understanding of the HIF were all subjects I had a solid background in through my classes at ILR. Through what I have learned at ILR, I was able to appreciate the real-life intersection of corporate, government, and non-profit initiatives and the many implications.
While writing my paper, I had to take into account the feasibility of conducting a pilot of the HIF in India. To gage the possibility of a pilot, my supervisor and I met with many individuals, including activists, academics, and officials. My favorite meeting was when I went separately to meet the Director of Pharmaceuticals for the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. For over an hour we discussed the details of the HIF and the feasibility of a pilot in India. It was an encouraging experience as the director was genuinely interested in HIF and emphasized his eagerness to create a pilot in India. This, for me, was extremely rewarding and made real progress towards the realization of the HIF.
I am indebted towards the International Programs Committee as this experience would not have been possible without their help. Exploring New Delhi and being involved in a relevant and dynamic project was a rare break and great application of my studies at Cornell. I was a part of a project much bigger than myself, and one I that I previously knew nothing about.