When Bill Gates Sr. walked into the nondescript building back in the mid-1990s looking for good causes that could use some of his son's extra money, he recalled, he was "just blown away" at what he found.
What the elder Gates had discovered was PATH, the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, a relatively small and little-known non-profit working on the health and disease problems of poor countries.
Today, thanks largely to funding by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the list of ongoing work by this Seattle organization has ballooned in scope and breadth. Thirty years after its founding, PATH now coordinates many of the Seattle philanthropy's largest endeavors in global health, such as the Malaria Vaccine Initiative (which has received $250 million from the Gates Foundation). PATH, now with more than 600 employees worldwide and an annual budget of nearly $170 million, is one of the world's largest and, arguably, most influential private, non-profit organizations in the global health arena.
PATH had by the '90s moved on to technologically oriented solutions to problems in maternal and child health, immunizations and disease in poor countries, such as:
· A single-use syringe (auto-disabled to prevent reuse, which can spread disease) now distributed by UNICEF worldwide at the rate of more than 5 million a month.
· A heat-sensitive label for a vaccine vial that changes color if it has been rendered ineffective during transport. The World Health Organization recently said that use of these labels in the developing world has saved millions of dollars and countless lives.
· An inexpensive diagnostic blood test called the "HIV dipstick" that costs only a few cents and can be used in resource-poor communities.
[Excerpt of an article by Tom Paulson, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer]