Tag Archives: global health

Putting the Gateses’ mission shift in context

I could really use a pie chart here, showing all the promised slices of international aid that remain missing or get removed as global priorities shift.

In the previous post, I noted Melinda Gates’ clarion call — and her accompanying $1.5 billion philanthropic pledge — for more to be done for women and children’s health worldwide. The Gates Foundation, Obama Administration and other governments or donor organizations appear to be turning more philanthropic and foreign aid attention to the terrible inequity of maternal and child deaths worldwide.

This a very worthy cause, but of course there are many worthy causes. And not all of them are receiving the funding or attention they deserve. AIDS was once the world’s top global health priority, but now it appears that funding for many existing projects aimed at battling the pandemic will remain flat or decline even as the number of those afflicted continues to increase.

The Gates Foundation claimed this is not so much a shift in focus as an expansion of an existing priority, but most observers did see it as a shift and a new focus. Some also noted that when you decide to emphasize one thing, it often means you de-emphasize something else.

The Gates Foundation has, for example, decided not to renew funding for a number of projects it helped launch years ago looking for an effective AIDS vaccine. The Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is now struggling to merely respond to existing needs — trying to convince donors not to reduce funds and pointing out it needs something like $15 billion merely to keep on pace for the next few years. Meanwhile, people still die from AIDS and HIV still spreads as most still don’t receive the drugs they need to survive and prevent transmission.

This kind of “cause inequity” and mission shift is often shrugged off as inevitable given we do not exist in a world of unlimited resources.

But what is perhaps less excusable is when donors and governments make promises they don’t keep. In her Monday remarks, Melinda Gates noted that later this month leaders of the most powerful nations on the planet will convene in Canada at the G8 summit in Muskoka, Ontario. The Gateses and members of the Obama administration say they intend to especially push for new commitments to invest in improving maternal and child health.

Maybe someone should take a hard look at how many members of the G8 kept their previous global health commitments — and whether these new commitments represent true progress or sort of a shell game.

Side note: I couldn’t find any illustration showing all of the broken promises, but for those who like to think the U.S. does more than others when it comes to foreign aid, below is a bar chart that shows otherwise. We give much less, per capita and as a percentage of our GDP, than most developed countries:

U.S. Provides Comparatively Less Foreign Aid, Source: OECD



Partying for Prevention

Seattle has spawned all sorts of innovative approaches to selling things that most people would have thought couldn’t be sold – like a $5 cup of coffee or books without a bookstore. But even the boldest Northwest innovators likely wouldn’t have thought of this.

On Thursday night, young do-gooder entrepreneurs showed they could throw a killer party for 500-plus people in Seattle based on what most would have figured would just be a big buzz kill – diarrheal deaths in the developing world.

Partying on Purpose

“We could have sold 1,000 tickets,” said Kristen Eddings, one of the organizers of the sold-out “Party with a Purpose” held at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Seattle’s South Lake Union district.

If anyone had any doubts that global health has become a cause célèbre for young folks, this event should cast them aside. Sponsored by the Washington Global Health Alliance (where Eddings works), the Gates Foundation, Boeing and many leading health organizations in town, the purpose of the party was to raise awareness of critical issues in global health and especially of one big killer — diarrhea.

“I have a job that not only condones, but encourages me to talk about diarrhea at a cocktail party,” said Hope Randall, a young woman who works at PATH and helped run an informational booth at the event.

Randall and colleague Deborah Phillips showed party-goers how a simple 10-cent packet of salts, sugars and nutrients can prevent the death of a child. PATH is working to expand the use of this solution (called oral rehydration therapy, or ORT) in Kenya and throughout Africa.

Admission and raffle tickets sold at the event raised $13,000 to help the Kenyan government increase the use of ORT. Party-goers were also shown a brief video about rotavirus, a bug that causes deadly diarrhea and kills at least 500,000 children in poor countries every year. Diarrhea from all causes kills more than 1.5 million children every year.

Libuse Binder urges partygoers to change the world

“Any one of us can make a difference, beginning by becoming aware,” said Libuse Binder, author of “10 Ways to Change the World in Your 20s.” Binder, who formerly worked in LA for the film industry, said she moved to Seattle a few years ago because she sees it as the center of the humanitarian universe.

Eddings also told the crowd: “Bill Gates, Sr., sent us an email … He said he believes global health is the movement of our generation.”