As philanthropist billionaire Bill Gates proposed a few weeks ago at a Vancouver TED conference, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is spending up to $75 million initially to help open a network of disease surveillance sites in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to fight child mortality. By tracking how and why children get sick, health workers hope to identify the right kind of aid interventions, in the right places, to save lives and prevent epidemics–or repurpose the sites to fight epidemics like the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
In areas with high infant mortality like Sub-Saharan Africa, the network hopes to amass health data, set up information management systems, and establish labs to bolster the overall health infrastructure in areas where it is more rudimentary. The absence of labs in West Africa slowed the international response to the Ebola outbreak, Gates told the Financial Times.
Establishing local labs will give disease fighters better access and beefed-up facilities. Researchers in six initial disease surveillance sites will perform biopsies on deceased children and research in the sites’ labs, says The Atlantic, though that could expand to up to 20 sites.
Diseases that in the past have killed children on a large scale, including pneumococcus and rotavirus, didn’t require precise tracking because they were everywhere, Bill Gates told The Atlantic. The new sites hope to pinpoint more particular diseases, like typhoid and cholera, and work to actively repurpose the labs to detect and respond to outbreaks.
The surveillance network project, called the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance Network (CHAMPS), is a minimum 20-year project. Gates told The Atlantic the foundation hopes that the network will help cut childhood mortality rates in half by 2040.
[via The Verge]