The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) jointly will support an international research network to improve the health of women and children throughout the world. The Foundation will provide $15 million over a three-year period. NICHD will match the Foundation's commitment and will initiate the program in early 2000.
"Infant mortality, childhood illness, and the human immune deficiency virus do not respect international boundaries," said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the NICHD. "The Gates Foundation's generous contribution will help NIH support additional research on the health problems of women and children in developing countries."
Dr. Alexander added that the Gates Foundations support will help the network to establish self-sustaining international medical research institutions, which he said are urgently needed to address many of the world's most pressing health concerns.
The global network will consist of teams of U.S. scientists working in collaboration with scientists in developing countries. Each team will focus on scientific and public health problems that require the attention of a variety of disciplines. Information and expertise will be shared among the members of the network. NICHD will also co-fund a research-training program-to be managed and supported by NIH's Fogarty International Center-to complement the global research network.
In addition to the funds provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the NICHD, it is anticipated that other NIH Institutes and international organizations may provide financial, technical, scientific, training, and administrative support for the network. Based on the advice of many U.S. and international experts, the global network will undertake biomedical, behavioral, and prevention research relevant to the health and medical problems faced by women, children and adolescents in developing countries. According to Dr. Alexander, such research will not only benefit developing countries but also may help improve public health at home.
"In the U.S., for example, the percentage of women who die in childbirth is very low-but it's remained unchanged for about 15 years," Dr. Alexander said. "Efforts to reduce maternal death during childbirth in developing countries-where the incidence is much higher-may lead to strategies for reducing maternal death in the U.S."
Although the specific research projects to be undertaken through the global network will be decided in consultation with the network grant recipients, the areas of research undertaken will fall within the scope of the NICHD mission. Initial efforts likely will focus on prevention of maternal and infant diseases and causes of death in the developing regions of the world.
Dr. Alexander stressed that a key objective of the global network is to encourage the transfer of research skills and expertise from the U.S. to the developing world.
"Despite many success stories, there remains an unfinished agenda regarding the health of women and children worldwide," Dr. Alexander said. "Research and other efforts are still needed to ensure safe pregnancies and birth outcomes, improved care of childhood illnesses, appropriate immunizations, and effective nutritional interventions. There remains a global research gap which NICHD and its research partners and grantees hope to fill with this program. We want to start the millennium with a concrete commitment to the wellbeing of future generations."
The NICHD is one of the Institutes comprising the National Institutes of Health, the Federal government's premier biomedical research agency. NICHD support and conducts research on the reproductive, neurobiological, developmental, and behavioral processes that determine and maintain the health of children, adults, families, and populations. The NICHD website, http://www.nichd.nih.gov, contains additional information about the Institute and its mission.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation places a major focus on helping to improve people's lives through health and learning. In addition to the Bill and Melinda Gates Children's Vaccine Program, significant Foundation projects include: the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, a $50 million commitment per year for 20 years to provide college scholarships to high-achieving minority students; the Maternal Mortality Reduction Program, a $50 million commitment to prevent pregnancy-related deaths of women in developing countries; a $25 million commitment to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) for research and development of a vaccine to prevent the spread of AIDS; and, a $50 million grant to the Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention to prevent cervical cancer in developing countries. More information can be found at http://www.gatesfoundation.org/ .