Posted on December 30, 2009
2009: Global Health, Healthcare Reform Share Spotlight
PND -- 2009: Global Health, Healthcare Reform Share Spotlight
With media coverage surrounding healthcare reform reaching a fever pitch in the latter part of the year, it was easy to forget that 2009 opened with major news from the global health arena.
In February, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced commitments totaling hundreds of millions of dollars to global health efforts, including $255 million to Rotary International for polio eradication efforts; $100 million to the International Partnership for Microbicides to help women in developing countries protect themselves against HIV infection; and $34 million to the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases to treat and combat neglected diseases affecting the world's poorest populations. The foundation, the largest private funder of global health initiatives in the world, continued its support for such efforts throughout the year, announcing additional commitments totaling hundreds of millions of dollars by year's end, including $115 million to the Geneva-based Medicines for Malaria Venture to fund MMV's research and development pipeline for anti-malarial drugs.
In fact, funding for malaria prevention was a major global health theme in 2009. United Against Malaria was launched over the summer with money from Gates and other sources to leverage global interest in soccer into increased support for malaria prevention efforts in the run up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, while Roll Back Malaria, a public-private partnership comprised of multilateral agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and foundations and the Acumen Fund each launched efforts during the year to develop and provide anti-malarial drugs to the developing world.
Closer to home, healthcare reform shared the spotlight with the economy as the most discussed and analyzed issue of the year. In September, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report which found that the number of Americans without health insurance grew from 45.7 million in 2007 to 46.3 million in 2008 — a number that, according to the Obama administration, might have jumped by an additional six million in 2009 due to soaring unemployment. Against that backdrop, a string of reports funded by the Commonwealth Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson, Peter G. Peterson, and Henry J. Kaiser Family foundations highlighted the growing cost of healthcare in the U.S., weighed the pros and cons of different reform options, and warned about the perils of inaction.
With the year drawing to a close and healthcare reform legislation moving inexorably toward becoming law, it was difficult to predict what the final bill would look like. One could be reasonably certain, however, that whatever the final outcome, private foundations and individual philanthropists in 2010 would continue their efforts to reduce healthcare disparities and achieve quality health care for the greatest number of people, both at home and abroad.
As Melinda Gates told a group of lawmakers, administration officials, and foreign policy experts in October, that goal can't be achieved quickly enough. "When it comes to global health, Bill and I are optimists — but we're impatient optimists," Gates said. "The world is getting better, but it's not getting better for everyone, and it's not getting better fast enough."
Gates Foundation, Foreign Governments Commit $630 Million to Fight Polio (1/22/09)
Gates Foundation Awards $100 Million to Help Women Prevent HIV Infection (2/26/09)
Public-Private Partnership Launched to Provide More Affordable Malaria Drugs (4/21/09)
Without Federal Reform, Number of Uninsured Could Expand Sharply Over Next Decade, Report Finds (5/27/09)
Number of Uninsured Grew, Poverty Rate Hit Eleven-Year High in 2008, Report Finds (9/11/09)
Bill and Melinda Gates Call on U.S. Policy Makers to Continue Support of Global Health Initiatives (10/28/09)