Recently, billionaire and philanthropist, Bill Gates, featured on ABC’s Q&A, which was broadcast live from the University of New South Wales.

900 people attended the live Q&A session to see, and hear from, the founder of Microsoft and one of the world’s most generous philanthropists through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Foundation is investing billions of dollars in health and education projects around the world.

During his time in Australia, his key message to us was simple: to encourage Australia to continue and expand our aid programs.
Guided by the audiences’ questions, Gates also touched on several critical topics concerning health and research, and why we need to provide aid. We’ve put together a summary for you:

While polio is considered largely a problem in developing countries and was eradicated from our shores in the late 70’s, an audience member explained that polio cases still touch Australian lives. The woman – now in her 60’s and wheel-chair bound – contracted polio in 1988, and will not be considered for funding under the National Disability Scheme (NDIS).
Gates acknowledged that those affected by polio need healthcare services long after contracting the disease and urges governments to consider this.

One of Gates’ top priorities is to stop malaria deaths, and as such, his Foundation is the world’s largest financier of malaria research. A question transmitted via video link raised the issue of whether this is the best way to spend the money, or if it could be better placed toward improving health systems and policy.

According to Gates, there is no magic bullet and a holistic approach is needed. It wasn’t so long ago that millions of children were dying from malaria each year, and now with the wide distribution and use of bed nets in developing countries, this death toll is down to 700,000. While no reason to celebrate, better access to bed nets has proven to be life-saving, and funding for such should be encouraged. The Foundation also supports the development of new malaria treatments, and is currently working with an Australian manufacturer on creating a single-dose treatment which can solve the problem of repeat visits for those living far from healthcare facilities.

Pricing model
One key barrier to global health is the affordability of medicines in developing countries. Asked about pricing models, Gates said that his foundation is committed to ensuring access to treatments and vaccinations, and that although pricing negotiations and volume commitments are steps in the right direction, the search continues for the correct formula for tiered pricing.

Breaking the disadvantage cycle
The Australian Indigenous population was also on the agenda during ABC’s Q&A. An audience member explained how these communities have a lower life expectancy compared to non-indigenous Australians, which can in part be attributed to poor health, education and employment rates.

To break the cycle, Gates highlighted the paradox of trying to bring an indigenous population in line with a modern, Westernised world while retaining traditional values.  Gates said it’s important to ask the right questions (of the right people) and take a close look at the resources available.
Again, a holistic approach is needed to tackle health issues.

Finding your passion
Younger members of the audience were interested to know if Gates’ confidence was a bi-product of his fame and fortune, or whether an inner confidence and passion for technology and global health spurred his success.

Gates said it’s important for young people to have great role models while growing up, who’ll give them the confidence to go off and find their passion. While Gates realised at an early age that his future was in software and computers, he emphasised most people don’t decide on which road to travel until they are in their 20’s. Gates urged students to keep searching for their passion until they find it.

Modern technology
During the program, Gates also shared his views on the use of computers and phones by children. Gates and his wife, Melinda, restrict their children’s use on smart phones and the like, and teach them how to use technology and new devices responsibly.

You can watch the program in its full length here