Bill Gates has been investing in health initiatives for 20 years now, and he writes in the Wall Street Journal that one particular type of investment in this field rarely fails to pay off. It involves what those in the global health field call "financing and delivery"—organizations that figure out how to get needed medical supplies to impoverished nations. Gates writes that he and his wife, Melinda, have put $10 billion over the years into three such organizations through their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund; and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. As it turns out, "they are probably the best investments our foundation has ever made."
Using a data-crunching tool from the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Gates writes that if they had put the same $10 billion into the S&P 500, it would have generated somewhere between $12 billion and $17 billion for developing nations. Not bad. But the return on their investments into the three groups has far exceeded that. "The $10 billion that we gave to help provide vaccines, drugs, bed nets and other supplies in developing countries created an estimated $200 billion in social and economic benefits," he writes. The reason is fairly basic: "They’ve created a lot of wealth, because when people aren’t sick in bed, they can go to work or school." Click to read the full piece, in which Gates warns that all three groups need more donors to step up or risk having to scale back their work. (Read more Bill Gates stories.)