Module 7: Healthcare Foundations

Healthcare foundations are philanthropic organizations that award scholarships and grants for research, training, education, etc. They seek out worthwhile social ventures in which to invest, and fund the implementation and mobilization of health programs. Individuals and organizations normally submit proposals to healthcare foundations to seek funding for their social projects. According to Bill Gates,

“Foundations are not needed in areas where capitalistic market signals work well and the poorest aren’t left out. If someone told you there was a foundation looking into what kind of restaurants should be started and helping them get started, you would rightly wonder why nonprofit dollars were being spent in that way. Foundations provide something unique when they work on behalf of the poor, who have no market power, or when they work in areas like health or education, where the market doesn’t naturally work toward the right goals and where the innovation requires long-term investments. These investments are high-risk and high-reward. But the reward isn’t measured by financial gain, it’s measured by the number of lives saved of people lifted out of poverty.”(1)- Bill Gates

As Bill Gates points out, healthcare foundations are required to invest in the welfare of the poor, something which conventional markets will not normally do as they normally only invest in initiatives that generate an economic return. Healthcare foundations measure their success in terms of the impact of the social ventures sponsored, such as the number of lives saved as a result of a health intervention program. About a decade ago, Bill and Melinda Gates founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which today provides grants to various healthcare organizations to combat diseases like malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, polio, pneumonia and flu, diarrhea etc. through research funding. For instance, the foundation supported Medicines for Malaria Venture’s efforts to develop new malaria treatments with a $202 million grant.(2) Besides global health, the foundation is also involved in various educational, agricultural as well as financial services projects.

Another example is the Rockefeller Foundation, which supports a variety of social initiatives, one of which is the Transforming Health Systems Initiative, a program that helps developing countries with more efficient health systems so that more people can access affordable and higher quality health services. Working at a foundation is an important way to contribute to global health.

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(1) Gates, Bill. "Page 8: The Role of Foundations - 2009 Annual Letter from Bill Gates - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation." Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 2009. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 15 Jul 2009.

(2) "Global Health Program Fact Sheet." Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 15 Jul 2009.