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Cross-sectoral partnerships and fighting NCDs: An example from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Engage Africa Foundation works with future public health leaders to mentor them in public health as it relates to chronic disease prevention and control. Through their practicums, they grow in their understanding of and ability to contribute to emerging public health challenges. One of those students is Yllka Sejdiu and she will be reflecting on her growth through monthly blogposts.


Bill and Melinda Gates: First Visit to Africa

Bill and Melinda Gates in Mozambique, 2003.

Ever since I was a little girl, I was really interested in learning about health, healthcare, and global health. As I grew older, I continued to be interested in global health and tried to learn about it in school as much as I can, and I also learned about it on my own time while reading about it through online sources. Coming from a country like Canada, health is such a privilege that at times you can take it for granted, but there are developing countries around the world that require help in order to gain the access to care that they require. One thing I have learned is that the concept of funding from different foundations and organizations is such a crucial aspect to global health. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is an example of a foundation which funds low- and middle- class countries in order to improve people health and lifting them out of poverty. What really intrigued me to recently learn more about their philanthropy work from their foundation was a video of Bill Gates on the Ellen DeGeneres show in February 2018. Starting at 4:05 minutes of the video, Bill Gates explains some very interesting work he and his wife, Melinda, do in their foundation, specifically work in Africa. Here is the link:

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is a good demonstration of how important social determinants of health are with respect to noncommunicable diseases. Bill Gates, who is the cofounder of Microsoft, is one of the richest people in the world with billions of dollars. He and his wife Melinda run the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which supports work in hundreds of countries around the world while focusing on health, education, and development.

The foundation works with partners worldwide to tackle critical areas. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation strive to help people lead healthy and productive lives. The foundation focus to support a range of programs with the emphasis on health and nutrition; disease prevention; treatment and research; water, sanitation and hygiene; agriculture; financial services for the poor; and policy and advocacy (1).  They believe that “the path out of poverty begins when the next generation can access quality healthcare and a great education” (1). Evidence has continuously shown that individuals who live in poverty are vulnerable to disease, and reports from 2012 show that 388 million people (43%) living in Sub-Saharan Africa lived in extreme poverty (2). In Africa, poverty, globalization, trade, education, urbanization, climate change, employment conditions and gender disparities are considered to be social and economic determinants that exist. These determinants are considered key risk factors affecting noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) that influence individuals, households and communities (3). NCDs, which include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, respiratory conditions, diabetes and other ailments, affect people of all ages, nationalities and classes (4).  In 2007, reports show that about 80% of NCD deaths occurred in low-and middle-income countries, which accounted for 44% or premature deaths worldwide (4). NCDs are increasing in burden in the developing world, and most donors are placing emphasis on communicable diseases world, especially in the Sub-Saharan countries. Concerted action needs to take place in order to avert these preventable deaths. The 2003 Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative is spearheaded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and focuses on establishing disease control programs globally by identifying priorities (4). These Grand Challenges in NCDs are intended to reduce the epidemic of these disease by funding and supporting, as well as by guiding policies and research in evidence-based manners (4).

As seen from the above information, social determinants of health are relevant to both communicable and NCDs. Bill Gates is such a influential man in global health, and one of the world’s biggest donors who working very closely with the World Health Organization (WHO). His foundation’s work does not simply use their resources to help those in need (there is not enough resources in the world that could eradicate all of disease and ill health), instead, alongside their resources they also partner with governments, the public, and the private sector and work to foster public awareness of global issues, as well as change pubic policies, attitudes, and behaviours to improve lives (1). The work of Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is a reflection of how important the collaboration across different sectors (a cross-sectoral approach) is in order to make a positive change in the healthcare system.

Bill and Melinda Gates: First Visit to Africa










Bill and Melinda Gates visiting a young patient in Manhica, Mozambique who was suffering from malaria, 2003.

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  1. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (2018). All Lives have Equal Value: We are inpatient optimists working to reduce inequality. Retrieved from
  2. Toure, A. (2015). African gains in health, education, but numbers of poor grow. The World Bank. Retrieved from
  3. World Health Organization (WHO). (2017). Noncommunicable disease. Retrieved from
  4. Daar, A.S., Singer, P.A., Persad, D.L., Pramming, S.K., Matthews, D.R., Beaglehole, R., Bernstein, A., Borysiewicz, L.K., Colaguiri, S., Ganguly, N., Glass, R.I., Finegood, D.T., Koplan, J., Nabel, E.G., Sarna, G., Sarrafzadegan, N., Smith, R., Yach, D., Bell, J. (2007). Grand challnges in non-communicable diseases. Nature. Retrieved from



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