As it works through a rough patch in September, Seattle can look to ongoing progress of its global-health ventures.
AS Seattle recovers from the one-two punch of Amazon’s wanderlust and Mayor Ed Murray’s ignominious resignation, residents should find inspiration in the city’s thriving global-health ventures.
Bill and Melinda Gates continue to raise the bar for generosity with investments in health programs saving millions of lives.
Their Seattle-based crusade to improve the health and living conditions of the world’s poor received a substantial funding boost this summer, worth about the same as Amazon’s budget for a second headquarters.
To produce lasting change, the Gates family is transforming health care delivery systems in developing countries and supporting government-aid programs.
They are experimenting with the pharmaceutical industry to develop, produce and distribute the low-margin vaccines desperately needed by people in places that could never afford them otherwise.
Much of this work happens in the same neighborhood as Amazon’s prime headquarters.
Earlier this month, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation presented a $120 million grant to PATH, one of the first innovators to set up shop in a shiny, new South Lake Union building. The nonprofit develops drugs, medical devices and health systems.
PATH is using the grant to scale up its vaccine-development program. It’s recruiting top experts and building capacity akin to a pharmaceutical company, but dedicated to producing low-cost, lifesaving products for the developing world.
This follows Bill Gates’ decision this summer to give $4.6 billion of Microsoft stock to the foundation. His largest gift since 2000, it brings the value of his charitable donations to $50 billion, according to a Bloomberg analysis.
Breathtaking, but still nowhere near enough to combat the spread of scourges such as malaria and AIDS.
Gates noted last week that the foundation’s spending remains relatively small compared with foreign aid and research funded by government, which President Donald Trump wants to cut.
Rather than directly attack Trump’s proposals, the foundation released a report showing how much progress has been made saving lives lately. It also predicted how many lives will be lost if government funding is reduced.
Continued aid from the U.S. and other nations is critical to maintain progress seen in recent decades. Gates and former President Barack Obama will make this pitch Wednesday at the United Nations General Assembly.
Backsliding means death and suffering for millions, and more instability in places like Nigeria and Pakistan. Just a 10 percent reduction in funding for AIDS treatment and prevention could lead to 5 million additional deaths by 2030, Gates said.
In addition to the moral obligation, helping troubled regions also increases national security. It projects U.S. influence and values.
Former President George W. Bush explained this on NPR in April:
“When you have an entire generation of people being wiped out and the free world turns its back, it provides a convenient opportunity for people to spread extremism,” he said, discussing a program battling AIDS in Africa.
If Congress and Trump want to make America and the world greater, they will continue funding foreign-aid programs that are relatively small expenditures yet pay enormous dividends.
Meanwhile, the Gates family and Seattle are doing their part. Both have changed the world in many ways.
But because of the Gates’ philanthropy, and the cluster of smart organizations they’ve seeded, Seattle’s greatest contribution may be figuring out how to eradicate horrible diseases, affordably save more lives and reduce suffering in places left behind in the modern era.