Friday, February 11, 2011

The 2011 Bill Gates Letter

Love this letter from Bill every year. Like always, it's a great read about some current global issues that you should probably be aware of. Lots of great learning in here, so take a dive.

Here's some stuff I learned for the first time:
+ About Polio:
- still exists in 4 countries
- like other viruses eradication is key or else it can come back with a vengeance, due to acquired immunity
- eradication energizes global health for fighting other similar diseases

+ Smallpox is the only successful disease eradication program ever

+ On childhood vaccines:
- Lives can be saved if we can reduce the costs of vaccines and raise enough money to buy and distribute them.... The most direct way of saying this is that every $2,000 cut in the most effective aid spending causes a child to die.
- The huge infectious disease burden in poor countries means that a substantial part of their human potential is lost by the time children are 5 years old... A group of researchers at the University of New Mexico conducted a study, covered in The Economist, showing the correlation between lower IQ and a high level of disease in a country. Although an IQ test is not a perfect measure, the dramatic effect you see is a huge injustice. It helps explain why countries with high disease burdens have a hard time developing their economies as easily as countries with less disease.

+ On malaria:
- Of the 99 countries with malaria, 43 have decreased cases of the disease by more than 50 percent.
- Turkmenistan and Morocco were recently declared malaria-free.

+ On AIDS:
- The best tool would be a vaccine for HIV. The scientific progress on this has gone well. The positive results of the trial in Thailand were a turning point for the field, and blood samples from the volunteers are being studied in depth for lessons about why that vaccine worked but only to a limited degree.
- There has also been an explosion in the discovery of antibodies that block HIV infection. Scientists don't yet know how to make a vaccine that will cause patients to generate lots of these antibodies, but there are several approaches that look promising and will be ready to go to trials in the next few years.
- The number of people dying from AIDS has gone down by more than 20 percent in
the last five years, to fewer than 2 million annually.

+ On agricultural development:
- When farmers increase their productivity, nutrition is improved and hunger and poverty are reduced. In countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania, investments in seeds, training, access to markets, and innovative agricultural policy are making a real difference.

+ On excellence in teaching:
Our project to learn what the best teachers do—and how to share this information with other teachers—is making significant progress...We're learning that listening to students can be an important element in the feedback system. In classes where students agree that "Our class stays busy and doesn't waste time" or that "In this class, we learn a lot almost every day," there tend to be bigger achievement gains.

Best quote: "Given all the lives that are at stake, I am impatient enough about this that I am willing to be viewed as a troublemaker by people who are happy with the status quo."

And sorry to those of you who I got my RT about this but in Mandarin. Maybe it's a hint that you should learn Chinese?


  1. who should learn Chinese?

  2. It hurts the most when your wife calls you out. I have learned that many a times over our 10 years if marriage. But you are right we all need to be multilingual.

  3. hey i know enough to get fried rice....

    and yes ben - i've learned many times too ;-)