Bill Gates: mobile health technology will save lives, help overpopulation

Dees Illustration

Melanie D.G. Kaplan
Smartplanet

WASHINGTON -– Bill Gates, co-chair and trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, gave a keynote address yesterday at the mHealth Summit, an annual gathering that focuses on improving health care through mobile technology.

Gates told an audience of more than 2,000 that if we could register every worldwide birth on a cell phone, we could ensure that children receive the proper vaccines. He also said the key to controlling population growth is to save the lives of children under 5; and the next big thing in technology is robots.

Gates said computing technology has been great for health care, and there are plenty of opportunities to use the cell phone in clinic settings. Although he noted that some places which need mhealth technology the most may not be able to fully benefit from it.

“We have to approach these things with some humility,” he said. “There’s not Internet connections back there. Often [patients are too sick] for some cell phone thing to do something for them.”

Gates said the key health care metric that we as a society should be trying to improve is one that is in the front of his mind all the time–the number of children who die before age 5. Today, he said the number is 8.5 million; in 1960 it was 20 million.

“About one-third [of that improvement] is by increasing income,” he said. “The majority has been through vaccines. Vaccines will be the key. If you could register every birth on a cell phone—get fingerprints, get a location—then you could [set up] systems to make sure the immunizations happen.”

Gates said he’d like to see a birth registration system, and because it’s a new technology, “we should let 1,000 new ideas blossom.”
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