December 12, 2012 |

Why I give to PATH

Group of people sitting outdoors on blue mat.
Steve Davis and PATH donors meet with villagers in Cambodia. Photo: PATH/Heng Chivoan.

More than a decade ago, a friend told me about this amazing organization with a 20-year history of doing cool things with health technologies. As a business leader in the emerging Internet industry—trained as an intellectual property lawyer with roots in global development and social justice work—I was fascinated to learn about this place called PATH right here in my hometown of Seattle. As an entrepreneur who believes deeply in the transformative power of innovation to address our largest challenges and opportunities—and in this case to save lives and reduce health inequity—I was captivated by PATH’s mission.

Man speaking to group and gesturing with hands.
Cambodia was the site of one of Steve’s first PATH field visits. Photo: PATH/Heng Chivoan.

That’s when I started on my own PATH journey, first as a donor, then as a member of PATH’s board and as interim director of our India country program, and now as president and CEO. Throughout this journey, I have been privileged to see the extraordinary talent and work that drives PATH and the genuine impact that work has on individuals and communities around the world.

So in this season of giving, when so many of us make choices on our charitable contributions, I’d like to tell you why I continue to be an enthusiastic donor to PATH in addition to making it my professional calling. And now that I am both a donor and a steward of other people’s generous contributions to PATH, I’d like to tell you why I believe taking innovation to scale to address priority global health needs can truly change the world.

A belief in innovation

I give to PATH because I believe in innovation. When I first became involved, I vaguely understood the importance of creating positive disruptive approaches to the way we address critical social issues, primarily through technological interventions. But over the years, I’ve become even more committed to the power of innovation—not just coming up with something new, but devising creative, effective solutions as the result of study and experimentation. PATH has an extensive portfolio of projects that has changed millions of lives by doing exactly that. We rely on our contributors to help us continue this record of success.

One of my first field visits with PATH took us to Cambodia—a country I was familiar with, having worked on Cambodian refugee issues early in my career. More recently, support from our contributors has helped us find a new way to address pneumonia and diarrheal disease, a combination that’s responsible for four in ten child deaths there.

Our strategy sounds deceptively simple: address pneumonia and diarrheal disease at the same time. The groundbreaking part comes in targeting the people who receive training, develop the skills, and get access to tools for prevention and treatment. It’s not only health workers, but those who see at-risk children daily, including village health volunteers and parents. The approach has worked so well that Cambodia’s Ministry of Health is partnering with PATH and UNICEF to take it nationwide. It’s this marriage of innovation and partnerships that makes me so excited about our work and the value of my personal donations.

A commitment to impact

I give to PATH because I’m able to see the impact of my support. A couple of years ago, I had the chance to see the results of PATH’s work close up while managing our team in India. Part of our work there involves increasing access to one of history’s most effective public health interventions—childhood vaccines.

View our video about our work in India.

When PATH began work in the state of Madhya Pradesh, just 36 percent of the children were fully immunized, leaving the rest vulnerable to preventable diseases like measles, tuberculosis, and polio. Our team found that nearly every link in the immunization chain needed strengthening, which meant a significant commitment of funds and a lot of work. We needed to help government and health leaders align on a coherent project, to ensure a strengthened supply chain, to create social incentives and communication approaches so parents would demand immunization for their kids, to train health care workers and supply them with appropriate tools to reach kids in the most challenging locations, and to ensure our data, monitoring, and evaluation approaches were best-of-class so we could learn from our actions and influence future projects and policymakers.

Support from our individual contributors not only helped us get started, it attracted additional funding from a major foundation. This blend of support has made tremendous progress possible. In three years, 3 million people took advantage of the new immunization services, and the number of fully immunized children in Madhya Pradesh has jumped to 67 percent.

A vision for the future

Finally, I support PATH because I know good health is essential to global development. I think we all understand that intellectually, but when you spend time in a village in Madhya Pradesh, you understand it directly. Education, empowerment for girls, financial inclusion, social justice, smaller family sizes—all are contingent upon health.

Like many of you, I’m interested in ideas—big and small—that have the potential to radically change life for the better. These are the kinds of ideas the people of PATH are working on every day, in more than 70 countries.  I believe that work is worthy of my support. I hope you’ll agree and will join me in supporting PATH.

Invest now in a healthier world, and double your impact. Donations to PATH made before December 31 will be matched dollar for dollar, up to a total of $100,000.

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