Though I've heard the statistic many times, I always I find it staggering to think that Africa has to cope with 24 percent of the world's disease burden, with only 3 percent of the world's health care workers. This is a heart breaking fact that speaks to why every year millions of people suffer--and in many cases die--from preventable or curable diseases. We must do more to improve access to basic health care, particularly in rural communities in developing countries.
Yesterday, I was proud to be in Washington, DC to participate in the launch of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, a group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have come together to urge greater, more strategic investment in health workers who are often the first and only point of contact for medical care in their communities, and who can provide a "cost-effective way to save lives and foster a healthier, safer and more prosperous world." The Frontline Health Worker Coalition, along with a group of private sector companies, hopes to do their part to fill the gap of one million health workers in the developing world.
Private companies investing in training for health workers is nothing new. At GSK, one of the programs we are most proud of is our commitment to reinvest 20 percent of our profits in the world's Least Developed Countries back into programs that train and develop health workers in those countries, working with Save the Children, CARE and AMREF. Last year we reinvested approximately $6 million. This investment could support the training of between 7,000 - 10,000 health workers each year.
What was new was that GSK, together with seven other private sector companies--BD, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Merck, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer and Intel--have come together in a new partnership with the US government to help address the shortage of frontlinehealth workers in the developing world. This sort of collaboration is an exciting and open new approach--one we hope we'll see more of in the future.
Some might think that's just philanthropy aimed at improving our reputation. But for GSK, investing in health systems for developing countries is not only good for patients; it also makes good business sense. Our investments in the world's least developed countries help ensure that we have a sustainable and successful business that will grow with those countries. The launch of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, and the many partners and external experts who showed up to support the coalition yesterday exemplified how different organizations can share the same goal and provide different but equally valuable contributions to one goal: improving healthcare around the world.