In his annual letter, former New York City mayor and Bloomberg Philanthropies founder Michael R. Bloomberg argues that governments and philanthropic organizations should focus more on addressing preventable causes of death and improving public health globally.
In the letter, which is included in the foundation's 2016 Annual Report, Bloomberg notes that more than three-quarters of all deaths each year result from preventable causes — seven in ten from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as strokes, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases and the rest from injuries. In middle- and low-income countries, NCDs account for 67 percent of all deaths, yet only 1 percent of global health funding supports efforts to prevent them. By contrast, tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV account for 7 percent of deaths and 39 percent of funding, while maternal, neonatal, and child health issues account for 5 percent of deaths and 28 percent of funding.
While "[n]ew vaccines and cures for communicable diseases are vitally important," writes Bloomberg, "[g]overnments often fail to recognize that people are dying from causes that are preventable and that they can do a great deal to save those lives through smart policies and targeted funding. It is not a choice between fighting communicable diseases and preventing NCDs. We can do both — and philanthropy has an indispensable role to play in each."
In his role as the World Health Organization's first global ambassador for non-communicable diseases, Bloomberg, with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies and in partnership with WHO and Vital Strategies, is launching the Partnership for Healthy Cities, an initiative to help municipal governments reduce NCD risk factors in their communities. The letter also highlights the work Bloomberg Philanthropies, in partnership with governments, has done to reduce preventable deaths through its $100 million Data for Health initiative and efforts in areas such as tobacco control, obesity prevention, and road safety.
"There are philanthropists, elected officials, and leaders of nongovernmental organizations who have made this life-saving work a top priority. But not enough," Bloomberg writes. "By encouraging everyone to do more, we can save millions of lives, spare millions more from pain and suffering, and create a safer, healthier, and happier world. It would be hard to find more inspiring and important work."