Midterms may be gradually approaching on campus, but in the global health arena, a report card has already been issued. Bill and Melinda Gates presented their foundation’s assessment of the world’s progress in addressing health and poverty to the United Nations General Assembly this past week. Various health indicators were assessed including child and maternal mortality, stunted growth, malaria, vaccine use and HIV/AIDS.
The primary purpose of the report is indicated in its name: Goalkeepers. In 2015, the United Nations committed itself to a collection of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that together illustrate what all member states would like the world to look like in 2030. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation issued this report to hold policymakers and donors accountable to these SDGs. Goalkeepers is the result of three years of research — a huge statistical undertaking — and tracks progress for 18 data points included in the SDGs. The report will be issued every year until 2030 with the intention to accelerate the fight against poverty and ensure money spent on development has a maximal impact.
The health issues identified mostly plague developing nations, but the Gates emphasize the importance of international donors and political support. The report is issued at a crucial time when the Trump administration is considering large cuts in foreign aid. Goalkeepers is as strategic as it is informative. Its graphic-heavy layout and inclusion of stories behind the data help bridge the communication gap between global health researchers and policymakers. The report includes case studies on family planning in Senegal, financial services for the poor in India, and so on. It also presents a larger picture of global data for poverty, stunted growth, tuberculosis and other SDGs. The Gates support universal health coverage, stressing the importance of primary care.
Data in the report shows promising gains and also reveals areas for improvement. Death from AIDS and malaria have fallen, while vaccine use and access to basic healthcare have gone up. However, health disparities between the rich and poor countries have widened and many maternal and infant deaths are preventable ones. The report’s projections for 2030 in relation to the SDGs set in 2015 are a stark wake up call. It is the responsibility of private donors, federal aid, and the minds of a new generation of global health researchers and advocates to answer it.