Bill Gates’s First Annual Letter on Life at the Foundation: “I Love the Work”

1/26/09Follow @xconomy

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toward improving global health, focusing on about 20 diseases. One of the key goals is to reduce the number of childhood deaths from 10 million a year to less than 5 million a year. “At the foundation we are getting even more focused on our top health priority, which is helping to make sure that vaccines are developed and delivered to fight these diseases. With a handful of new vaccines, we should be able to save a year of a person’s life for well under $100,” Gates wrote.

—The foundation added a focus on boosting the economies of developing countries about two years ago. About 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day, an estimated 900 million suffer from chronic hunger, and most of the poor live in rural areas of developing countries, Gates wrote. The foundation is investing in new seeds and fertilizer to help improve agriculture so that more people can create enough wealth to support themselves. This could be a catalyst to improving education, Gates wrote, because farming families are more likely to put their children in school for longer periods of time when agriculture productivity rises. It all sounds great, but Gates acknowledges that poor people around the world are also likely to bear the brunt of global climate change, with floods and droughts bringing new hardships for agriculture.

—On U.S. education, Gates says that the country’s goal should be to ensure that 80 percent of students graduate from high school “fully ready to attend college,” by 2025. “This goal will probably be more difficult to achieve than anything else the foundation works on, because change comes so slowly and is so hard to measure,” Gates wrote.

Interestingly, one of the biggest differences about the new job is that he now works closely with his wife, Melinda. “I met her at Microsoft, but we didn’t get to work together as peers like we do now. She and I enjoy sharing ideas and talking about what we are learning. When one of us is being very opti¬mistic, the other takes on the role of making sure we’re thinking through all the tough issues,” he wrote.

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