GLASGOW, United Kingdom — In the face of global health crises, celebrities have increasingly leveraged their platforms to advocate for underprivileged nations, garnering attention and resources for disease control in developing countries. From the (RED) project to the Empowered campaign, these initiatives demonstrate the potential of public figures to drive meaningful change and contribute to a healthier, more equitable world.
Celebrity Advocacy at the G7 Summit
In June 2021, ahead of the G7 Leaders’ Summit, 28 notable celebrities and UNICEF Ambassadors, including David Beckham, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, Whoopi Goldberg and Angélique Kidjo, penned an open letter urging G7 leaders to commit at least 20% of their COVID-19 vaccine supply to underprivileged nations. The letter highlighted the risks of ongoing virus transmission and the emergence of new variants, requesting G7 leaders to develop a roadmap for increasing donations as supplies. In recent years, celebrities have employed their platforms to bring attention and resources to disease control in developing countries.
Celebrity Led Organizations
Celebrities can reach extensive audiences through their social media presence, fan base and public events. They can use this influence to draw attention to diseases that might otherwise be overlooked or underfunded. For example, the (RED) project, established by U2’s Bono and Bobby Shriver in 2006, aimed to involve the private sector in raising funds to combat AIDS in Africa. Since its inception, over $350 million has been contributed by the private sector through (RED), with 100% of the funds directed towards HIV/AIDS programs in Africa. Major brands like Apple, Nike, Dell, American Express and The Gap have participated in the initiative, creating special (RED) products and allocating a portion of their profits to the Global Fund towards disease control in developing countries.
Similarly, 14-time Grammy Award-winning artist and HIV advocate Alicia Keys partnered with Greater Than AIDS and the Black AIDS Institute to launch Empowered, a campaign focused on increasing HIV awareness among women. She also co-founded Keep a Child Alive, an organization committed to providing medical care for HIV-positive children and their families in developing countries.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has significantly altered the public health landscape since the late 1990s, revitalizing interest in global health issues at a time when funding and enthusiasm were waning. The foundation’s influx of resources and attention has reinvigorated the field, with its annual spending on global public health surpassing the WHO’s yearly budget. This has prompted donors to re-evaluate global health as a crucial and extensive discipline. The foundation has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to effective technologies like vaccines and medicines, partnering with organizations such as GAVI, the Measles Initiative and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and disease control in developing countries.
A Look Ahead
The participation of celebrities towards disease control in developing countries has greatly impacted awareness, funding and the development of long-term solutions in developing countries. As these public figures continue to harness their influence for positive change, there is hope that their efforts will contribute to a healthier and more equitable world for all.
– Nkechi First