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Bill and Melinda Gates: Global Health is “America’s Best Investment for Saving Lives” - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

In speech to policymakers, Gateses to call for global push to halve child deaths by 2025

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: +1.206.709.3400
Email: media@gatesfoundation.org

WASHINGTON -- In a joint speech to policymakers tonight, Bill and Melinda Gates will make the case that U.S. initiatives to fight AIDS, malaria, and other diseases in poor countries are “America’s best investment for saving lives,” and that continued support could help cut child deaths in half worldwide in just 15 years.

The Gateses, co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will address an audience of lawmakers, administration officials, and foreign policy experts at Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, D.C. The presentation will be webcast live at www.livingproofproject.org, beginning at 7:00 pm ET.

“Dollar for dollar, global health is America’s best investment for saving lives,” said Bill Gates. “U.S.-supported global health programs are saving and improving the lives of millions of people, at a remarkably low cost. All Americans should be proud of this success.”

“In our visits to developing countries, Bill and I have met countless people who are alive, healthy, and productive as a result of U.S. global health programs,” said Melinda French Gates. “We want Americans to know how much their generosity is accomplishing, and how much it’s appreciated.”

While spending on global health makes up less than one quarter of one percent of the federal budget, it has increased significantly in recent years – from $1.5 billion in 2001 to $7.7 billion in 2009. These investments are achieving impressive results; for example:

  • The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), launched in 2003, has helped to save an estimated 1.2 million lives by expanding access to HIV prevention and treatment.
  • The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, supported by the U.S. and other donors, has provided 88 million insecticide-treated bed nets to protect children from malaria.
  • In less than a decade, the GAVI Alliance – a global initiative to immunize children in poor countries – has already prevented an estimated 3.4 million deaths.
While recent progress in global health is encouraging, the Gateses will emphasize that it is only a starting point.

“When it comes to global health, Bill and I are optimists – but we’re impatient optimists,” said Melinda Gates. “The world is getting better, but it’s not getting better for everyone, and it’s not getting better fast enough.”

Gateses Call for Rapid Action to Cut Child Deaths in Half

In tonight’s presentation, the Gateses will urge policymakers to commit to reducing child deaths worldwide by nearly 50% – from approximately nine million at present per year to five million – by 2025.

“U.S. support has already helped to reduce deaths of young children by more than 50 percent in the past 50 years. If we keep up our commitment, it’s possible to cut child mortality in half again – just 15 years from now,” said Bill Gates. “What’s more, we can do it with proven interventions that already exist.”

Citing new projections by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the Gateses will highlight four key strategies that could be combined to achieve this dramatic reduction in child mortality:

  • Vaccines: Immunizing 90% of children with vaccines to prevent rotavirus, pneumococcal disease, measles, and other illnesses
  • Fighting malaria: Reaching 90% of people at risk with bed nets and other malaria prevention tools, and providing effective malaria drugs to 75% of those in need
  • Maternal and newborn care: Providing basic health services to at least 75% of pregnant women and newborns
  • Treating diarrhea and pneumonia: Ensuring that at least 75% of children receive treatment for diarrhea and pneumonia, including antibiotics for bacterial infections
Researchers also estimate that implementing these strategies would reduce the number of women who die in pregnancy and childbirth by approximately one-third.

“These are ambitious goals – but we can achieve them, if we keep investing in global health and expand programs that work,” said Bill Gates. “If we succeed, millions more children will have the opportunity for a healthy and productive life.”

Living Proof Project to Highlight Success of U.S. Global Health Investments

Tonight’s event is part of a new awareness campaign, The Living Proof Project: U.S. Investments in Global Health are Working, which seeks to inform policymakers and the public about the impact of U.S.-supported global health initiatives.

The Living Proof Project includes a website, www.livingproofproject.org, which brings global health success stories to life with videos, photo galleries, interactive graphics, and personal profiles. The campaign has also sponsored TV, radio, print, and online advertising in Washington D.C., featuring people from developing countries who are “living proof” that U.S. investments are saving lives. The campaign will announce additional activities and events in the coming weeks.

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