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A 2009 photo of Bill and Melinda Gates. Photo: Kjetil Ree, Wikimedia Commons

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated billions of dollars toward research and initiatives aimed at improving the wellbeing of populations across the globe.

Now, the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation and his wife and philanthropist have released a report, “Goalkeepers: The Stories Behind the Data,” which analyzes the progress that has been made in recent decades on 17 specific health indicators.

The report took three years to compile, and demonstrates how specific innovations and initiatives have made a significant impact on reducing rates of poverty, childhood deaths, disease, and more.

The 17 health indicators came from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), established in 2015 by the United Nations. Participating countries adopted “a set of ambitious goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda.” Some examples of the established goals include zero hunger, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, responsible consumption and production, among others. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved by 2030.

The Gateses have kept an eye on the progress made through these targets, and released the data-driven “Goalkeepers” report showing the advancements that has been made. The release of the report coincides with Global Goals Week, held each September to mark the anniversary of the SDGs being agreed upon at the United Nations.

Sharing success stories
This year, Global Goals Week also includes a special event hosted by the Gateses in New York City. The two-day event, which begins today, involves the second annual Global Goals Awards. In partnership with UNICEF, individuals who have demonstrated leadership in progressing global health initiatives will be recognized.

The awards ceremony will be live-streamed, beginning at 9:15 PM EST tonight. Tomorrow, live-streaming of all the day’s events will continue, including speeches and stories of success.

In addition to Bill and Melinda Gates, more than 20 other influential speakers will share their stories, including former U.S. President Barack Obama, as well as Malala Yousafzai – Pakistani activist and youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and Dr. Rajesh Panjabi – CEO of Last Mile Health, and associate physician in the Division of Global Health Equity at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Panjabi was also the recipient of the 2017 Ted Prize, and was listed as one of TIME’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2016.

Bill and Melinda Gates noted the importance of sharing stories of “quiet progress” to outshine negative news reports that populations read and hear about on a daily basis.

The report highlights a number of case studies in addition to global data charts that demonstrate the progress made in recent decades.

For example, the Child Mortality Under Age 5 case study showed that in 1990, the death toll for children 5-years-old and younger was as high as 15 million. Now, that number has been reduced to 5 million, with projections showing the current rate could be cut in half by 2030.

However, the data chart also outlines projections if efforts regress in the next 10 to 12 years. If so, nearly 2 million lives that could have been saved, will be lost in 2030. The chart also identified how numbers were impacted after the development of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in 2000. According to the Gates Foundation, Gavi has helped more than 70 countries vaccine 600 million children, and has helped save more than 7 million lives.

Another striking statistic is noted within the global poverty rates. The World Health Bank defines global poverty as living on less than $1.90 per day. In 1990, 35 percent of the world fell into this category. Now, it is down to nine percent, according to the report.

"Ultimately, the goal is to 'end poverty in all its forms,' which is more ambitious than simply guaranteeing a wage on which people can subsist. It means, as our foundation's mission statement says, that all people can lead a healthy, productive life," Bill Gates stated.

'Jeopardizing' progress
The report does not shy away from areas that need improvement. Despite the drastic drop in childhood deaths since 1990, the report breaks down the data on a country-by-country basis, identifying nations where children are most at risk – such as Angola, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Pakistan. With this knowledge, efforts going forward can be prioritized in these regions.

At current trends, poverty rates could fall to six percent by 2030.

They also cited some of the risks that could jeopardize progress made so far, including “shifting priorities, instability and budget cuts.”

Under budget proposals from U.S. President Donald Trump released in May, U.S. funding for global health programs including efforts on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria would see a 24 percent cut to about $6.5 billion for 2018.

Bill Gates gave credit to the significant investment made by nations all around the world in the early 2000s – particularly through the Global Fund to Fight Aids – for helping reduce the impact of the HIV/Aids crisis.

“In the history of global health, there had never been an increase of that magnitude in getting products and services to people who need them,” said Gates. The HIV case study is one of the greatest successes, but it is at risk, according to Gates. Governments in donor and developing countries that responded to the crisis at its peak 15 years ago are now shifting focus to other things. Gates explained that a 10 percent cut in funding for HIV treatment could cost the lives of an additional 5.6 million people.

Other case studies in the report include Maternal Mortality (specifically in Ethiopia), Family Planning in Senegal, Financial Services for the Poor in India, Stunting in Peru and Global Poverty, as well as additional data on malaria and tuberculosis, neglected tropical diseases, smoking rates, and universal health coverage.

“The decisions we collectively make in the next couple of years are going to have a big impact on the shape these curves take. Of course, it’s not really about the shape of the curves. It’s about what the curves signify: whether or not millions or even billions of people will conquer disease, lift themselves out of extreme poverty, and reach their full potential,” wrote Bill and Melinda Gates.

The Gateses said they intend to publish the “Goalkeepers” report every year until 2030 as a reminder on the importance to “accelerate progress in the fight against poverty by helping to diagnose urgent problems, identify solutions, measure and interpret key results, and spread best practices.”

The report was co-authored by the Gates Foundation and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

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