Brief of an article by Jeff Raike, chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:
One of the questions I’m often asked as CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is what issues we invest in and why. To answer, it helps to understand a little about the foundation’s history.
More than a decade ago, Bill and Melinda read a newspaper article about the millions of children dying in poor countries from diseases that most people in the United States don’t have to worry about. One disease in particular—rotavirus—caught their attention, and it was killing half a million children a year. They’d never even heard of rotavirus. They thought it might be a typo.
Rotavirus, they learned, is one of the main causes of diarrhea. When kids in the United States get diarrhea, their doctors give them electrolytes. When kids in the developing world get it, they often die.
Reading this helped Bill and Melinda make two decisions: That they would start a foundation right away and that their giving would focus on solving some of the world’s greatest inequities.
The Gates Foundation is guided by the belief that all lives—no matter where they are being led—have equal value. Whether a child is born in New York or New Delhi shouldn’t pre-determine their access to health, education, and opportunity. Of course, this belief is simple to say, and much harder to achieve. But our ultimate goal is to reduce the world’s greatest inequities, so every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life.