The world's largest private charity is taking the strategy it sharpened while fighting malaria and malnutrition in Africa to target under-achievement in the U.S. public-school system
Bill Gates trumpeted his numbers-driven approach to philanthropy at a Manhattan meeting with six reporters and writers, including myself, Wednesday afternoon, where he laid out his wish list for how to improve data-gathering efforts to address social, health, and economic problems around the world.
The world's most generous donor also launched a few missives aimed at fellow philanthropists -- who, he says, devote too much funding to disaster-relief in the wake of floods and earthquakes, and too little to sustained improvements that prevent disasters from wreaking such havoc. He also took aim at the federal government, which he said should spend more money on research and development on innovative policy reforms, particularly in public education.
WHAT GATES LEARNED IN AFRICA
Aid for bed nets, vaccines, and agricultural assistance has helped reduce childhood deaths in the developing world by 250,000 per year since 1998, and half of all African children are now arriving at school having survived once-deadly health traumas like malaria, malnutrition, or polio. But while surging survival rates are encouraging, an often-ignored side effect is that "the kids who live are damaged," Gates said, cognitively impaired by disease in ways that impede learning in the classroom. He'd like to gather better information on exactly how physical health problems impair neurological functioning, and though he didn't say so, this information would also be valuable in the United States, where early childhood exposure to lead and poor diets affect brain development.