Bill Gates, global health expert

The World is Not Ready for the Next Pandemic,” declared the cover of last week’s Time Magazine.  This article quoted “global health experts”, the first of which was “Bill Gates.” Yes, Gates was listed before representatives of the WHO and CDC, before any licensed medical doctor.

Among other things, the experts warned that it could be “too late”, that “nowhere near enough is being done to prepare, leaving the U.S. scarily exposed” to “the Next Pandemic.”

So, how did Gates, who doesn’t have a medical degree or even a healthcare GCSE, make it to the front of the list of global health experts ?

You might say that Gates became an expert by giving a lot of money to fight disease, through the not-so-humbly-named Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

But, that’s not the only place where Gates’ money goes.

Microsoft Cloud was advertised on the back page of the same issue of Time Magazine.  The ad claims Microsoft Cloud has benefits for world medicine.  Now, Time Magazine is not a medical journal, otherwise this kind of advert might not be allowed.  But, I’m sure the editorial board will claim that the advert had no effect on the content of the article.

The gist of the article was that 15.1 billion in US funding cuts leave the world, and America, vulnerable to disease.  Why does Bill Gates care, when he has over 15.1 billion of his own?

A cynic’s view might go like this: A significant chunk of that 15.1 billion might be spent on technology. Fewer government employees means fewer computers, means fewer new versions of Windows, Microsoft office, Microsoft cloud, and other Microsoft products. Smaller government means less revenue for Bill Gates and his Microsoft empire.

The United States isn’t the only country to spend billions in healthcare, worldwide the IT departments of healthcare departments are worth many billions.

That said, Gates does put his own money into fighting disease.  The 100 million his foundation is putting toward CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) will be offset by positive publicity for Microsoft, but it’s hard to make a donation that big without getting attention.

That said, CEPI will go back into the very industry that made Gates rich.  These “innovations” are likely to be digital in nature, just like the Microsoft Cloud solutions that were advertised on the back of the magazine.

I’m not saying that CEPI will go mostly to Microsoft Cloud services, but it’s great advertising for the Gates name, and for Microsoft. And, with this money, recipients might be reluctant to use UNIX based or Mac based (or other competing) systems rather than those that support Microsoft.

But, back to the question, other than giving money (through foundations or advertising), what makes Gates an expert?

Gates doesn’t seem to diagnose diseases, perform operations, or personally test medicines. He did participate in the ice bucket challenge, but so have many people like you. If he’s a health expert, then so is every mother who ever bought a band-aid, or every father who ever caught their child faking a high temperature, and every kid who participated in the ice bucket challenge.

So, while we applaud all the good work done by the Gates foundation, we aren’t sure Gates is a true health expert.

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