PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — Early this July, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation dropped a $20 million grant into the hands of the Duke Global Health Institute. In the words of Director of the DGHI, Michael Merson, “that’s an amount that’s bound to raise a few eyebrows around these parts.”
Those who raise their eyebrows do not do so without reason. According to a 2010 State Center for Health Statistics “Report Card,” North Carolina received scores ranging from D’s to F’s on a health disparities scale, especially in areas like Communicable Disease control.
For instance, Hispanic and Latino North Carolinians were 3.4 times more likely to have HIV than Whites. Black North Carolinians were almost 10 times more likely to contract HIV.
These are problems that persist in the backyard of the DGHI. It can seem counterproductive to focus on global health initiatives thousands of miles away, when there are such clear problems within an, at most, hundred-mile radius.
In a recent column in the Herald Sun, the local newspaper for Durham, North Carolina, Merson deals directly with those raised eyebrows, who are representatives of many trepidations involving the outsourcing of large amounts of cash toward “global” development.
“When it comes to health, our world is becoming ever smaller and its people increasingly interconnected,” he wrote in the Herald Sun. “In fact, last spring, we treated a patient with a suspected case of Ebola right here at Duke.”
This $20 million from the Gates Foundation is organized into two $10 million sections that are dedicated to furthering global health research that will likely pay dividends back to health issues in the States.
The first $10 million section is dedicated to pursuing the growth of DGHI by bolstering financial aid for students in the program, recruiting top-of-the-line faculty, and strengthening Duke’s ties to on-the-ground initiatives in Haiti, Kenya and Sri Lanka (among others).
The second $10 million has a unique plan: it is a grant intended to facilitate the collection of more funds in the future. Every $1 of the $10 million donated by the Gates Foundation is now part of a “challenge” that will match an additional dollar to every dollar given. This raises the “total impact” of the grant to $30 million.
What kind of impact will this money have on residents of North Carolina? According to DGHI, the impacts will be both direct and indirect, with anti-AIDS and Cancer programs targeted at the at-risk population within the States, as well as similar initiatives in 54 additional countries.
Among these foreign projects are initiatives to strengthen medical education in Tanzania (Tanzania’s doctor-patient ratio is roughly of 1 doctor for every 50,000 according to a Harvard Study), expand and equalize health systems in India, and track environmental change and population growth in Peru.
This grant represents a new game plan for philanthropic aid in the global health arena: something that focuses on sustained research and development, while additionally providing resources that reach outside the classroom (with programs like the Tanzanian Medical Education initiative).
“Duke’s culture of collaboration enables faculty and students to bring the collective power of multiple disciplines to address complex societal problems,” said Merson in a press release. “This important gift from the Gates Foundation will allow us to extend our reach across Duke and around the world.”
– Emma Betuel
Sources: Duke Today, Duke Global Health Institute, Harvard Gazette, Herald Sun, NC Dept. of Health and Human Services