This morning, I strapped on a tool belt and climbed up on a stage to talk to some 800 of PATH’s most loyal supporters—including Melinda Gates, whose family foundation has so generously funded our work and who spoke so eloquently on our behalf today.
“Bill and I feel in some ways like we have grown up with PATH,” Melinda told the crowd in Seattle. “PATH was certainly here first in the Northwest. And when we started to want to get to know about global health, it was really PATH that we turned to.”
Melinda went on to describe a couple examples of the work we and our partners have engaged in recently: the development and delivery of an affordable vaccine against meningitis A, which has protected 100 million children and young adults so far, and community-based training for families in India on how to care for their babies so that they survive and thrive, which has reached more than 24 million people.
My topic? Diarrhea.
I’ll admit it doesn’t sound like the most promising premise for our annual fundraising breakfast, where our supporters unstintingly provide us with the funding that is critical to the success of our work. But I’m sure they—and perhaps that includes you—were not put off by the message. In fact, I’m betting you were inspired, as I was.
So no child perishes
In addition to Melinda and two of our unstoppable board members, Phyllis Campbell and Dean Allen, this morning I shared the stage with Dr. Alfred Ochola, who holds one of the most meaningful job titles I’ve ever seen: technical adviser for child survival and development in Kenya. Alfred leads an initiative to control diarrheal disease in the country’s Western Province. He told the story of Jane Wamalwa, who buried three of her children before PATH-trained community health workers helped her learn how to fight the diarrhea that killed them before their sixth birthdays.
Now Jane is a PATH-trained community health worker herself. Her deeply personal understanding of diarrhea’s consequences makes her a powerful ambassador for the tools and techniques that can save children’s lives.
And that brings me to the tool belt I wore this morning.
Transformative innovation that save lives
The tool belt was a visual aid—a place I could literally carry some examples of the tools that make transformative innovation possible in the fight against diarrheal diseases that take the lives of about 760,000 children every year. Tools like clean water, soap, zinc tablets for oral rehydration therapy, and rotavirus vaccine to stop one of the most ferocious diarrheal diseases
before it starts.
But much of what makes PATH unique, what truly leads to transformative innovation, can’t be carried in a tool belt. One thing that sets us apart is our ability to move innovative solutions to the people who need them. Education, medicine, technology—we bring the most effective combination of tools directly to the individuals who will benefit. We do it by leveraging PATH’s strengths and collaborating with community members, governments, and businesses. It’s a strategy that works.
And it’s a strategy that, today, we pledge to apply full-force to the scourge of diarrheal disease.
Our goal: 2 million lives saved
Today PATH made an explicit institutional commitment to fight these diseases by deploying all of our tools and expertise against them—as an institution. By taking a cross-program, cross-platform, child-centered approach to these diseases, we will take a leadership role in the global commitment to save two million lives by the end of 2015 by simultaneously tackling diarrhea and pneumonia.
No parent should have to bury a child because of something we can help prevent or treat. We know which tools we need to achieve our goal. And with your generous support, we know we can reach PATH’s vision: a world where innovation ensures that health is within reach for everyone.
- Steve Davis is the president and CEO of PATH.