Global health contributed $5.8 billion to Washington state’s economy in 2013 and accounted for 12,620 jobs, with an average wage of about $71,000.
Ask about Washington’s global health sector, and the first thing that comes to mind is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its work to save lives in developing countries with advances in science and technology.
To demonstrate the breadth of Washington state’s involvement in the sector beyond just the Gates Foundation, the Washington Global Health Alliance released a report Friday outlining the full economic impact of the emerging sector.
The report, based on data from 2013 and a 2015 survey, shows Global Health contributed $5.8 billion to Washington’s economy in 2013 and accounted for 12,620 jobs, with an average wage of about $71,000. This data will be the benchmark the alliance will use for future studies.
“While we are not going to compare to aerospace, software or coffee in the strict numbers, it is a significant contribution to the state’s economy,” said Lisa Cohen, executive director of the alliance. “We hear about the impact of global health in the state, but we needed data to back that up.”
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The global health sector, which overlaps slightly with the state’s more well-known life sciences/biotechnology sector, focuses on addressing health needs of people worldwide. It is made up of research institutes, biotech companies, governmental organizations, nonprofits and universities and includes PATH, Infectious Disease Research Institute, World Vision, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and, of course, the Gates Foundation.
The governor’s office recognized the importance of the global health sector in 2013 when it hired Maura Little as the Washington State Director of Life Science and Global Health Development.
The Washington Global Health Alliance was formed in 2007 and touts itself as the first organization of its kind. In 2009 and 2011 the alliance mapped Washington’s global health reach to help local organizations discover potential collaborations and shared facilities, and showcase global health as a powerful and emerging sector in the region.
The 2009 study surveyed 9 global health organizations and mapped out nearly 480 projects in 92 countries from global health organizations in Washington, and said there were 587 partnerships around the globe.
The latest study surveyed 71 organizations in 2015, reporting 5,100 projects in 151 countries and 1,959 partnerships. The alliance identified 168 global health organizations in the state.
Additionally, the new study moves beyond projects and into economic benefits. From 2009 to 2013, global health employment grew 4.4 percent each year, representing a gain of almost 2,000 jobs. At the same time, Washington state’s total employment grew 1.1 percent, meaning the global health jobs grew at four times the rate of state employment, according to the study.
According to the study, from 2010 to 2014 global health organizations in Washington received $3.7 billion in grant funding, with the majority of it coming from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In 2014 alone, $790 million came into the state with the NIH giving the most, followed by the Gates Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Centers for Disease Control.
Seattle-based PATH has been around for 40 years, and CEO Steve Davis said it is the “granddaddy of global health,” yet not many people know it is headquartered in South Lake Union, a mile from the Gates Foundation.
Davis said he hopes the new study will help shine a light on the global health sector in Washington so when the governor, for example, travels abroad to talk about what Washington has to offer, global health is part of the conversation.
“We should be as visible as software and airplanes,” he said. “I think we are, and can aspire to be, more of the Silicon Valley of global health.”