The Gates Foundation has announced that it’s investing $75 million into six new research centers across Africa and south Asia, that will act as a disease surveillance network to help end child mortality in the developing world.

Spurred by the recent Ebola epidemic in west Africa, the Gates Foundation is creating these centers in order to monitor global health threats with more accuracy. Instead of flying Western equipment into Africa and south Asia when it seems public health is at risk, the sites will provide a means of monitoring for disease all the time—helping spot outbreaks earlier and build capabilities to respond accordingly far sooner.

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Why is this so important? As the FT recalls, Bill Gates recently explained in a New England Journal of Medicine article, in which he wrote:

“Of all the things that could kill more than 10m people around the world, the most likely is an epidemic stemming from either natural causes or bioterrorism... Nato countries participate in joint exercises in which they work out logistics such as how fuel and food will be provided, what language they will speak, and what radio frequencies will be used. Few, if any, such measures are in place for response to an epidemic.”

It’s not yet known where the sites will be located, but they will all lie in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, in areas with particularly high rates of childhood mortality. In the longer term, the Foundation hopes to build 20 centers—but it claims it will require external funding to achieve that goal. [FT]

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Image by Gates Foundation under Creative Commons license