The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation‘s Malaria Forum in Seattle comes to an end today and has certainly lived up to its theme of “Optimism and Urgency.”
There is legitimate cause for optimism, especially if you look at where the world is today in its efforts to combat this leading killer as compared to where we were a decade ago.
Malaria deaths are down, an experimental vaccine is showing modest success against the parasite and this once-neglected disease and poorly funded field is now big news with a lot more money behind it. I think it’s fair to say the Gates Foundation, which has spent $1.5 billion on (and advocated for) malaria efforts over the past decade, is responsible for much of that transformation.
But the Gates Foundation, and to some extent the entire global health community, has a tendency to only want to talk about good news — to be optimistic. It’s understandable, but that also poses a risk.
“It’s been a bit like singing ‘Kumbaya‘ around the campfire,” said one top malaria researcher. It’s nice to celebrate progress, he said, but the structure of the meeting — which included the Gateses’ call for a ‘re-commitment’ to eradication — somewhat tended to discourage dissent and debate. Continue reading