This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bill Gates' Letter

Like me, you may have received an email today from Bill Gates:
I am writing to share my fifth annual letter about the work our foundation and its partners are doing. From time to time we should step back and celebrate the way that the right goals and smart innovation have done so much to improve the lives of people. In previous annual letters, I’ve focused on the power of innovation to reduce hunger, poverty, and disease. But any innovation—whether it’s a new vaccine or an improved seed—can’t have an impact unless it reaches the people who will benefit from it. That’s why in this year’s letter I discuss how innovations in measurement are critical to finding new, effective ways to deliver these tools and services to the people who need them most.
You can read my letter at
Well, in fact I did read his letter (and watched him on TV, as well, where he described himself as a bigger geek than Steve Jobs). In fact, it is pretty amazing what one couple with nearly unlimited money can do for the world. Here's one of the excerpts from his "letter" that particularly caught my eye:
There are now just three countries that have never eliminated polio: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. I visited Northern Nigeria four years ago to try to understand why eradication is so difficult there. I saw that routine public health services were failing: Fewer than half the kids were getting vaccines regularly, and there were no reliable figures for how many children lived in each area. Also, the normal process of quality monitoring done as part of each polio campaign was not working. Statistics about the quality of coverage varied greatly. We decided we needed to invest heavily in another layer of quality monitoring to understand what was going wrong. This involved picking random locations on the map and randomly checking children in those places to see if they had been vaccinated. The work required specially trained staff working independently of the people implementing the vaccination campaigns. That impartiality was crucial....The measurement systems put in place by the eradication initiative will be invaluable for other health care activities, including routine vaccination of infants, which means the legacy of polio eradication will live beyond stopping a disease that once paralyzed over 400,000 children every year.
Obviously he does this with the help and cooperation of a broad range of national and international organizations, but I still find this to be very impressive.

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