William R. Steiger
William Raymond Steiger (born 1969 in Arlington, Virginia) was Special Assistant to the Secretary for International Affairs and the Director of the Office of Global Health Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) during the George W. Bush Administration, with a portfolio that included HIV/AIDS, malaria, avian flu and pandemic-influenza preparedness. During his tenure in the Bush Administration, Steiger was involved in several controversies surrounding the politicization of science.
Early life and education
Steiger is the son of the late Congressman William A. Steiger (a Republican who represented the 6th District of Wisconsin) and the late Janet Dempsey Steiger, former Chair of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and the godson of former President George H.W. Bush. Steiger graduated cum laude in 1987 from the college preparatory St. Albans School for Boys in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Yale College summa cum laude with a degree in History in 1991. He earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Latin American History at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1995-96, Steiger was a Luce Scholar in the Philippines; he taught Latin American History at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, and the Ateneo de Manila University.
During a webcast, panel discussion at the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University Medical Center in January 2017, Steiger discusses ways the Trump administration can contribute to pandemic preparedness, global health security, and domestic readiness and resilience. On the topic of data sharing, Steiger credits Indonesia’s government for their instructive negotiations in 2007 after Indonesia stop sharing flu viruses while offering legitimate points why the WHO flu network was not set up for the benefit of developing countries in terms of capacity building around research and vaccine development. In the webcast, Steiger goes on to say the private sector has a role to play in data sharing and gives the example of Peter Bogner, the founder of the GISAID Initiative. He set up an academic network to share influenza data using private monies. The effort was not driven by government nor WHO, yet it became very helpful over time, Steiger says.
Bush Administration tenure
Steiger's role in the Bush Administration was the subject of controversy. He was charged with implementing a Bush Administration policy declaring that U.S. government scientists and public-health experts must "serve as representatives of the U.S. government at all times and advocate U.S. government policies." The policy required that U.S. government scientists be cleared by a political appointee before accepting invitations to World Health Organization (WHO) meetings. The policy was criticized in the scientific community as an effort to politicize science, while the Bush Administration defended its policy by arguing that HHS was in a better position that WHO to know which scientists to send to meetings.
Steiger was involved in several other scientific-political controversies during the Bush Administration. In 2004, on behalf of the Administration, he attacked a WHO plan to combat obesity, arguing that the link between the marketing of high-fat foods and obesity was unproven, as was the role of vegetables and fruit in a healthy diet. Steiger's letter echoed complaints about the report from the U.S. sugar and food lobbies.
Steiger was also identified in a Washington Post story by several public health officials as responsible for blocking the publication of U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona's report on global health problems, allegedly because the report failed to advance the Bush Administration's political agenda. Steiger, who according to the Post lacked "any background or expertise in medicine or public health", attributed the rejection of the report to "sloppy work, poor analysis, and lack of scientific rigor" on the part of the Surgeon General's office.
- Steiger's official biography
- Call to Action on Global Health, unpublished draft report of Surgeon General Richard Carmona.
- Lee, Christopher; Marc Kaufman (July 29, 2007). "Bush Aide Blocked Report". Washington Post. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
- Hamburger, Tom (June 26, 2004). "Bush appointee must clear any scientist advising WHO; World health agency says policy threatens free, open inquiry". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
- "Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI)". Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University Medical Center. 10 January 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
- "Pandemic Preparedness in the Next Administration". Georgetown University. 10 January 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
- Peters, Henry (February 15, 2004). "The sugar daddy bites back". National Review of Medicine. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
- Salant, Jonathan (February 11, 2009). "U.S. Opposes U.N. Obesity Report". CBS News. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
- Revill, Jo; Paul Harris (January 17, 2004). "America stirs up a sugar rebellion". The Guardian. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
- "Who pays in the obesity war". Lancet. 363 (9406): 339. January 2004. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(04)15469-X. PMID 15070556.