Bill and Melinda Gates will meet policy makers, non-government partners, business and community leaders, and public health figures in a visit to India this week to explore ways to build on achievements in health and development and tackle the significant burden of disease that still exists.
“We are proud to partner with India because its innovative approaches are saving and improving lives every day,” said Gates. Yet, despite remarkable achievements, India endures some of the greatest health and development burdens in the world.”
The main challenges and achievements they will highlight include polio eradication, the development and delivery of life-saving vaccines, improved health outcomes for mothers, children and newborns, and innovative approaches by public-private partnerships against the scourge of tuberculosis.
India’s success in reducing polio cases by 95 percent, from 741 in 2009 to only 42 last year, is just one example of its commitment to improve the lives of the poorest.
“I believe there is an excellent chance India will be polio free very soon,” said Bill Gates.
Concern remains about the outbreak in West Bengal that has persisted for more than12 months. “If there is polio anywhere, we are at risk of polio everywhere,” Gates said. “We encourage India to continue fully funding its own polio program to stop transmission once and for all.”
Another priority will be to urge the government of India to intensify progress on vaccinating its children. Last year, the Gateses called on the global community to help make this the Decade of Vaccines.
“Increasing routine childhood immunizations is critical to improving the health of children in India,” said Melinda Gates.
The Gateses will go to the state of Bihar and visit community health workers and state officials to see first-hand the launch of a five-year, US$80 million grant made in partnership with the state government and leading Indian and international non-government organizations. Bihar’s maternal mortality rate and other related indicators are among the highest in India.
“India has done a great job prioritizing maternal and child health through the National Rural Health Mission, and we hope our partnership with the government of Bihar will help to accelerate progress,” said Melinda Gates. “But we need to do even more to reach Indian mothers and children with existing innovative solutions that are saving lives.”
Innovative approaches to deliver crucial health services developed and implemented in India will be the focus of TEDxDelhi, a collaboration between the foundation and TEDx. On Tuesday, at the India Islamic Cultural Centre in New Delhi, Melinda Gates and leading Indian and global innovators will speak at TEDxChange @ TEDxDelhi, one of a worldwide series of local conversations about health and development.
During their trip to Bihar, the Gateses also will visit The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), which aims to help millions of Indian farmers substantially boost crop yields and their incomes within 10 years.
On Thursday, Bill Gates will join the Minister of Health, the Minister of Human Resources and Development and the Minister of Science and Technology to mark World Tuberculosis Day.
“India can change the way the world prevents, controls and manages TB,” said Bill Gates.
Since 2003, the foundation has invested more than US$1.2 billion in projects aimed at improving public health and development outcomes in India.
At the end of the week, the Gateses will join Warren Buffett for a discussion on philanthropy with Indian business leaders and philanthropists.