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The Lancet Displeased With Gates Foundation

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

The online medical journal, the Lancet seems displeased with Bill Gates use of money targeted for global health. The article, written largely by Dr David McCoy DrPH from the Centre for International Health and Development lauds the Gates Foundation. At the same time, the authors looked closely at where Bill Gates grants have gone, leading them to “raise several questions about the foundation's global health grant-making programme, which needs further research and assessment”.

The authors took their information from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website, extracting all grants allocated for global health initiatives from January 1998, to December 2007.

The journal’s displeasure with Bill Gates use of his money stems from the fact that just over a third- of the global health research grants went to developing vaccines, antibiotics, or to basic research in science. Last year, it was reported that most of the Gates Foundation research grants have been allocated to high-income countries, primarily in the United States.

The medical journal also expressed displeasure with the Gates Foundation for not focusing on our biggest health needs, and for simply granting too much money for global health research. A particular area of needed research is childhood diseases. An accompanying commentary suggests “poor correlation between the foundation’s funding and childhood disease priorities.” References are even made to the Gates Foundation’s “whimsical governance principle”, suggesting a lack of direction.

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The Gates Foundation seems to have come under scrutiny, and the result is displeasure about who got what money for global health research. The Lancet editorial asks, “What are the foundation’s plans for the future?”

The editorial from the Medical Journal has some suggestions for the Gates Foundation that include funding for global health research to health systems in low-income countries, greater transparency, allying with and listening to others, and providing global health research monies that target areas where disease burden is the greatest.

The Gates Foundation graciously accepts that the medical journal seems displeased, writing “We welcome this article and its findings. We try to be very thoughtful about how to target our resources, and we constantly seek out feedback from outside experts and stakeholders. In the end, we use our best judgment to determine where our funding can achieve the greatest reductions in health inequity around the world. We are committed to communicating information about our strategy, grants, and results, and are using our website to make it easier to find this information.”

The medical journal seems displeased with the Gates Foundation’s “lack of accountability, (and of private foundations in general)”, claiming the Gates Foundation changed their website following the author’s initial evaluation, finding overlaps between categories confusing. The journal also cited some displeasure with the Gates Foundation for granting global health research funds for HIV/AIDS and malaria research, rather than maternal health or mental illness.

The Lancet