By Elizabeth Willoughby on
Bill Gates spoke at a TED conference this month about two things his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is working on and some of the obstacles it’s facing. He proposed two questions. The first one was: How do we stop a deadly disease that’s spread by mosquitoes?
Now that malaria no longer exists in the rich countries of the world, more money is being spent on baldness cures than on eliminating malaria from poor countries. “Now, baldness is a terrible thing,” Gates quipped, "and rich men are afflicted. That’s why that priority has been set.
“Even the million deaths a year caused by malaria greatly understate its impact. Over 200 million people at any one time are suffering from it. It means that you can’t get the economies in these areas going because it holds things back so much.”
Mosquito nets used for sleeping mothers and their children, plus the use of DDT has been effective in reducing deaths from malaria. However, because both mosquitoes and the malaria parasite evolve, every tool used in combating malaria eventually becomes ineffective.
Gates’ solution: “If you go into a country with the right tools in the right way and you do it vigorously, you can actually get a local eradication.”
His second question, addressing the dismal results of United State’s education system was: How do you make a teacher great?
“Over 30% of kids never finish high school,” said Gates. “For minority kids, it’s over 50%. If you’re low income in the United States you have a higher chance of going to jail than you do of getting a four-year degree.”
His Foundation has targeted this with things like scholarships and investing in libraries and schools, which has helped somewhat. Through studies, though, Gates has come to the conclusion that the key to increasing the educated population is by providing great teachers, something that is not happening enough.
Nevertheless, Bill Gates is ever the optimist: “People are beginning to recognize how important this is. And it really can make a difference for millions of lives if we get it right. It’s going to take brilliant people like you [at TED] to study these things, get other people involved and your helping to come up with solutions.”
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