What did we learn from the Annual Letter from the Gates?

We are inviting you to read the annual letter from the Gates and see their chosen words for the year 2021.

We will start by learning the lessons from Bill & Melinda Gates' annual letter about global health and sustainable recovery. Then, we would get some uplifting news from Larry Fink about how the Sustainable themed funds are outperforming with Sustainable Premium through his annual letter to CEOs. These two letters contain great ideas, shared visions, and wonderful lessons to learn, guiding us through the year ahead.

The Year Global Health Went Local

The 2021 annual letter from Bill and Melinda Gates was written after a year unlike any other in our lifetimes. In their letter, they talked about the hard lessons learned in 2020 and the key to building a better future is by prioritizing equity and getting ready for the next pandemic. One of the hard lessons is no doubt being:

“Health is the bedrock of any thriving society.”

The Gates pointed out that a long recovery is in front of us, and that the end of the beginning is near. They shared important lessons for us to learn from the hardship last year and urge preparations for a sustainable recovery to combat future threats.

l Shared Effort

Another important lesson from last year is about what it’s taken to get here: the largest public health effort in the history of the world—one involving policymakers, researchers, healthcare workers, business leaders, grassroots organizers, religious communities, and so many others working together in new ways. They pointed out that companies making decisions driven by a profit motive or governments acting with the narrow goal of protecting only their own citizens could be problematic in a global crisis like this one. A lot of different people and interests cooperate in goodwill to benefit all of humanity is what gets us here.

To date, the Gates’ foundation has invested $1.75 billion in the fight against COVID-19. As reported, and most of that funding has gone toward producing and procuring crucial medical supplies. And their resources had backed the development of 11 vaccines that have been certified as safe and effective, and the lessons they learned along the way had help their partners in the development of vaccines against COVID-19.

“No one country or company could have achieved this alone.”

Funders around the world pooled resources, competitors shared research findings, and everyone involved had a head start thanks to many years of global investment in technologies that have helped unlock a new era in vaccine development.

In 2020, global health went local. The artificial distinctions between rich countries and poor countries collapsed in the face of a virus that had no regard for borders or geography. And that’s why the Gates are promoting the idea that the world has an important opportunity to turn the hard-won lessons of this pandemic into a healthier, more equal future for all.

l More equal

Disease outbreaks like the COVID-19 tend to exploit pre-existing inequalities. From AIDS to Zika to Ebola, disease outbreaks tend to follow this grim pattern. People with less are faring worse than those with more. Essential workers are facing greater risks than those who can work from home. Students without internet access are falling behind students who are learning remotely. In the United States, communities of colour are more likely to get sick and die than other Americans. And all around the world, women who have been fighting for power and influence over their lives are seeing decades of fragile progress shattered in a matter of months.

The Gates’ Foundation is calling on world leaders to put women at the centre of their COVID-19 response. If governments ignore the fact that the pandemic and resulting recession are affecting women differently, it will prolong the crisis and slow economic recovery for everyone. The letter also illustrated that a two-hour increase in women’s unpaid care work—cooking, cleaning, and childcare, is correlated with a 10-percentage point decrease in women’s labour force participation.

They urge governments to start treating childcare as essential infrastructure—just as worthy of funding as roads and fibber optic cables as they rebuild their economies. To create more productive and inclusive post-pandemic economies in the long term.

l Immunity Inequality

The Gates has urged wealthy nations to remember that COVID-19 anywhere is a threat everywhere from the beginning of the pandemic. Until vaccines reach everyone, new clusters of diseases will keep popping up. Those clusters will grow and spread. Schools and offices will shut down again. The cycle of inequality will continue. Everything depends on whether the world comes together to ensure that the lifesaving science developed in 2020 saves as many lives as possible in 2021.

l The next Pandemic

“It’s not too soon to start thinking about the next pandemic.”

As the unfortunate reality is that COVID-19 might not be the last pandemic. The letter is calling attention from everyone around the world to avoid making the same mistake by ignoring the chances of the next pandemic and start taking concrete actions to prevent it.

The world needs to double down on investments in R&D and organizations like CEPI that have proven invaluable with COVID-19 and building brand-new capabilities that don’t exist yet. The COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to cost the world $28 trillion. The world needs to spend billions to save trillions (and prevent millions of deaths), as the best and most cost-efficient insurance policy the world could buy. For the next global health challenges, the Gates’ annual letter suggests the following actions:

  • Investing in the scientific tools (like mega-diagnostic platforms) to get enough testing capacity for the current and potential disease. And to make up of the current problems we are facing with inventing treatments – they are time-consuming to develop and manufacture. An example this time is monoclonal antibodies, one of the most promising COVID-19 therapeutics. They noted that if a patient gets them early enough, you can potentially reduce the death rate by as much as 80 per cent.

  • Field-based capabilities that constantly monitor for troubling pathogens and can be spun up as soon as they’re needed. There is still a lot to be figured out in terms of specifics, including where these capabilities would be housed and how exactly they’d be structured. More specifically:

  • Building a global alert system to spot disease outbreaks as soon as they happen, wherever they happen. And get fully trained first responders throughout the world, and regularly run simulations that allow people to get practice, analyze, and improve how we respond to the next outbreaks. The faster you act, the faster you cut off exponential growth of the virus.

  • Emerging more pandemic preparedness strategies like the UK-led G7.

The world has suffered a painful hardship from this pandemic, it is up to us to assert the leadership in building a healthier, brighter future for all. Not just works for tomorrow, but the construction for our more sustainable society. The annual letter from Bill and Melinda Gates shared valuable lessons with us to move forward and beyond. At the end of their letter, they stress the gratefulness we owe to the healthcare workers who are enduring unimaginable trauma on the frontlines, the teachers, parents, and caregivers, the policymakers and the scientists and researchers who are working around the clock to stop this virus. Their leadership will get us through this pandemic, and we owe it to them to recover in a way that leaves us stronger and more prepared for the next challenge.

To read more:

The year global health went local | By Bill and Melinda Gates | January 27, 2021

(Written by Yitong Yuan)

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