Bill Gates wants to spread polio (awareness) at Davos

Chums at Davos (the guy next to Bono is former Nigeria Prez Olusegun Obasanjo)

Chums at Davos (the guy next to Bono is former Nigeria Prez Olusegun Obasanjo)

The big hoo-hah has begun surrounding the gathering of the rich, famous and powerful at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The story of Davos, like the story of the elephant and the blind men, tends to depend on what angle you bring to this gathering and what you’re hoping to see come out of it.

A quick Google News search suggests this year’s meeting is mostly about resolving glitches in international finance, banking regulations, bankers bashing the media for “bank bashing,” the state of the economy, the Euro, the dollar and, uh, mostly money (Well, duh. It’s not the World Wrestling Federation).

Politicians come as well to talk about politics. Celebrities come to talk about whatever they want.

Bill Gates, however, wants to make Davos this year a focal point for getting global support to finally complete the nearly completed worldwide campaign to eradicate polio. On Friday, Gates and others are expected to announce new financial commitments for the polio campaign.

In 2008, Gates used the Davos platform to call for “creative capitalism” (and he didn’t mean bundled derivatives). A decade ago, the Gates Foundation announced at the Swiss resort the creation of what continues to be its biggest philanthropic endeavor, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.

GAVI’s ten-year effort to greatly expand the use of childhood immunizations worldwide is, arguably, the biggest single thing going in global health. It has prevented more than 5 million deaths since it started (but, like many such initiatives, is now under threat from lack of adequate donor/government support).

Eradicating polio would be a big deal, too. But we’ll see how much attention Gates can bring to the struggling polio campaign amid all the other financially focused glitz and glamor. We have indeed almost succeeded in eradicating this disease but, as they say, the last mile is the hardest.

This annual gathering of the world’s best and brightest does get a lot of media attention, though some would argue it actually appears to accomplish very little — at least for the 99 percent of us who aren’t rich and powerful.

Given that track record, I’d say Gates has done pretty well over the years exploiting this elite confab.


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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.