Gates and Slim Foundations Join Forces to Target Maternal Health in Central America

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Bawa_221015Bill Gates and Carlos Slim are two of the richest men in the world. They’ve both amassed their wealth largely through their own doing, but both have also done a lot in using that wealth to address several world issues related to health and poverty.

In a new initiative, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has partnered with the Carlos Slim Foundation with the goal of reducing the number of easily prevented deaths of mothers and their newborns in Mexico and throughout Central America using innovative data and mobile technology methods. Melinda Gates, wife of Bill Gates and cofounder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was one of the key speakers and attendees at the Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference, which took place in Mexico City earlier this week.

The initiative to form the partnership between the Gates and Slim will be launched as the second phase of the Salud Mesoamérica program next year. The $170-million program has already showed measureable success in its first year, measuring the results of government-funded programs through data that has been independently collected and helping to determine financing to meet set targets.

The Salud Mesoamérica program believes mobile technology is the key to penetrating health concerns in the rural parts of Central America. By using technology to access these remote areas, they are able to offer health services to the poorest 20% of the population. Through innovative data collection and a system that enables consistent follow-ups, the program helps broaden the services offered to these groups and educates them so they are able to promote healthier lifestyles within their own homes.

Director of the Slim Foundation Roberto Tapia says of the planned second phase, “it’s like an algorithm that allows us to go step by step so that none of the crucial elements of prenatal care are forgotten.”

The funding strategy of the program is also unique in that it is incentive-based. More funds are released to the government for further initiatives only after the effectiveness of the current operations carried out is confirmed; once results of each phase are analyzed by an independent team of researchers, then another round of funding is issued to further the efforts.

Commenting on the program’s structure in an interview with Reuters, Melinda Gate explains, “I can go to a specific region and a specific state … in Mexico and I can look and see exactly how we are doing on maternal health, child health, and neonatal deaths. That tells me as a government how to act.”

The Salud Mesoamérica program continues to focus on the health of mainly women and children under the age of 20 in areas where malnutrition rates rival that of the poorest parts of Africa.

Sources for Today’s Article:
O’Boyle, M., “Gates, Slim target maternal, newborn health in Central America,” Reuters web site, October 21, 2015; http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/21/us-mexico-gates-idUSKCN0SF2JY20151021/a>.
“Salud Mesoamérica Initiative – Home,” Salud Mesoamérica web site; http://www.saludmesoamerica2015.org/en/salud-mesoamerica-initiative/salud-mesoamerica-initiative-home,1904.html/a>., last accessed October 21, 2015

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