TIME

Hope by the Numbers

The Microsoft founder and philanthropist spoke with TIME’s Nancy Gibbs about looking forward
FADHILA ATHUMANI, SALHATI HASSANI, HAILATI ALY, BILL GATES AND ASHA ATHUMANI IN THE VILLAGE OF KICHEBA IN THE TANGA REGION OF TANZANIA DURING AN AUGUST 2017 VISIT

You could argue that our failure to focus on what’s getting better suggests that the media generally is missing an enormous story. News by its nature is about a surprise. Which day do you cover malaria deaths being cut in half? Which day do you cover workplace accidents down by a factor of 50 over the 50-year period? It’s society doing what it’s supposed to do. People’s standards change. When I first went to Africa, I talked about how a single child dying was such a big deal because in the U.S., it’s rare. In some parts of Africa, because the death rate was so high, people actually waited to name their babies until they were 4 months old. And so the higher expectation is a good thing but it makes you feel that we’re still falling so far short.

You decided to focus on public health. Can you talk a little about what has surprised you most? Our global health work has exceeded our expectations. Being part of this movement, which has gotten childhood deaths down from over 12 million a year to about 5 million a year now, going from 1990 until today, and with a goal to

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