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Published On: Mon, Feb 11th, 2013

Bill Gates talks polio eradication, other global health issues on Reddit IAmA

Former chief executive and current chairman of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates did a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) Monday and discussed several important global health issues.

One questioner ask Mr. Gates, “What is the greatest achievement of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in your opinion and how do you choose which causes to support?”

Gates replied:

So far our biggest impact has been getting vaccines for things like diarrhea and pneumonia out which has saved millions of lives. Polio will be a great achievement along with key partners when that gets done.

Another global health related question asked was “Which world-wide health cause are we perfectly capable of easily solving and on the cusp of achieving but just need to put it over the top with a little more attention or resources to actually solve?”

Polio is the first thing to get done since we are close. Within 6 years we will have the last case. After that we will go after malaria and measles. Malaria kills over 500,000 kids every year mostly in Africa and did not get enough attention until the last decade. We also need vaccines to prevent HIV and TB which are making progress…

“How do you measure the success of the foundation? How does the foundation differ from other large philanthropic organizations?”, asked another Redditor.

Our goals are focused on helping the poorest (globally) and improving education (in the US). We spend half of our money on global health. One metric to look at is reducing the number of children (under 5) who die. My annual letter talks about the amazing progress that has been made on this. Amazingly as health improves families choose to have less kids so paradoxically population growth goes DOWN as you improve health helping with almost every issue – from stability to the environment..

“The anti-vaccine movement does not only exist in developing countries, such as Pakistan, but is quite popular here in the United States as well. As a result, the number of flu and whooping cough cases are bigger than ever.

“Are you planning on working domestically as well?”

Vaccines are very important in all countries. Some of the bad rumors have lead to kids dying of measles and pertussis. We have backed some information campaigns on the importance of vaccination even in the US.

One Redditor asked about an issue covered here on The Global Dispatch–the violence against polio workers in Pakistan and Nigeria.

“Given the recent targeting of health professionals in Pakistan and Nigeria, do you think eradication of polio is attainable in the next decade? How is the Gates Foundation going to get over this barrier to eradication and what is your opinion on the anti-vaccination movement in general?

Gates said:

The violence against the vaccinators in both Pakistan and Nigeria is a terrible thing. However both countries are committed to finishing the eradication. This is the project I spent most of my time on. We should be able to finish by 2018 although that will require raising funds and some great execution. We have some innovations like the way we use satellite maps to find all the villages and GPS tracking to make sure the teams go to every hut that are helping out. Polio is a harder disease than smallpox was but it is doable. (I discuss this more at www.billsletter.com and you can learn more about the progress against polio with this infographic:http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org/#nav=section4&slide=2)

In addition to infectious disease issues, Mr. Gates discussed climate change, emerging technologies and of course, Windows.

Reddit IAmA is where where users prompt others to AMA (“Ask me anything”). Several celebrities have participated including Stephen Colbert, Ron Paul and President Obama.

For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He regularly writes about infectious disease news for Examiner.com and administers the Outbreak News section of The Global Dispatch.

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