28 October 2009
Tim Siegenbeek van Heukelom

Bill & Melinda Gates: Impatient Optimists

Bill and Melinda Gates explained on 27 October 2009 why they are Impatient Optimists in a speech from Sidney Harmon Hall in Washington, D.C. screened live at the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

The speech launches the Living Proof Project which highlights the extraordinary successes that have resulted from the greatly increased support of global public health programs by the United States government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Living Proof Project demonstrates that initiatives to fight malaria, AIDS, and other diseases are saving and improving the lives of millions of people in poor and developing countries – and as a result, empowering them to lead more productive lives. The launch of Living Proof comes at a time when the global financial crisis may impose severe constraints on the capacity of the United States and other traditional large donor countries to increase their development assistance and global health budgets. It is therefore a decisive and welcome intervention in the emerging public debate about the future funding and direction of development assistance that will have a significant impact not only in the United States but in Australia and globally.

Bill and Melinda are optimists since there have been some major improvements in global public health over the last decades due to the greatly increased support from the United States government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill showed that child mortality has gone down from 20 million deaths a year in 1960 to less than 9 million in 2008. Focusing on the world’s most killing diseases they presented some striking global facts: smallpox is eradicated, polio is reduced by 99%, measles by 93%, and in the fight against HIV and AIDS there is a significant increase in mothers that are on preventive drugs, while since 2004 some 190 million bednets have been delivered world wide to fight malaria.

Yet, Bill and Melinda are also impatient because so much more can be done, right now. Why are there still many people dying of malaria while the disease is preventable and treatable? Fortunately, as Bill said “we got great science and more resources”, and that is what makes them impatient optimists. The key message Bill and Melinda thus offered is that “spending on global health is the best investment we make for saving lives”.

In this important multimedia presentation, Bill and Melinda Gates personally addressed senior policy-makers and opinion leaders in Washington, DC and around the globe to highlight opportunities to build on global health successes, and to develop the main themes of the Living Proof project.

The Lowy Institute for International Policy enjoys a close relationship with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which funds the Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria within the Lowy Institute.

Supporting the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is imperative, and the Lowy Institute was therefore pleased to facilitate the direct screening of this influential presentation.

Watch the “Why We Are Impatient Optimists” presentation below:

Pacific Friends operates as a program within the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales.

Pacific Friends

Professor Janice Reid AC
Bill Bowtell AO
Executive Director

Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a high-level advocacy organisation which seeks to mobilise regional awareness of the serious threat posed by HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to societies and economies in the Pacific. In pursuing its goals Pacific Friends has a specific interest in highlighting the need to protect the rights of women and children in the Pacific.



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