Every year, Bill Gates puts together a list of good news stories that didn't get enough attention--even though in the history of the world, they're likely to be more important than those stories that did.
Reading through these filled me with gratitude--and a renewed appreciation for the fact that most of my problems are really #firstworldproblems.
Here's the full compendium over the past three years, consolidating a few that came up repeatedly.
1. Africa went a year without polio (2015, 2013).
After a massive, multiyear effort, Gates wrote, the last African country to have a transmission of wild polio (Nigeria) went an entire year without one. This is huge--it leaves only Afghanistan and Pakistan as countries where polio is considered "endemic," Gates wrote. (Bonus: Gates wrote in 2013 that it was good news that a polio outbreak in Africa was controlled in a matter of months. But obviously, no polio in 2015 is better.)
2. Neil deGrasse Tyson gave a speech (2015).
Bear with us here. This wasn't just any speech--it was 272 words arguing that Abraham Lincoln's greatest forgotten legacy was his creation of the National Academy of Sciences. (It's short and pretty cool. Check it out here.)
3. The Nobel Prize for Medicine went to researchers fighting diseases of poverty (2015).
The honorees: William C. Campbell of the United States and Satoshi Omura of Japan, "for work that led to [a] drug [that is] super effective at treating a wide range of diseases caused by parasitic worms," Gates wrote, and Tu Youyou of China, who was honored for developing "Artemisinin, which is the centerpiece of treatments that have made malaria entirely treatable and save more than 100,000 lives every year."
4. Anyone can now get SAT prep classes for free (2015).
I'm on board with this one--the Khan Academy now has a free online learning portal for anyone who wants prep for the PSAT or SAT. That could level the playing field quite a bit in college admissions.
5. Mobile banking becomes more common (2015).
About two billion people worldwide have no access to the financial systems. That's changing, Gates reports, as "many countries are making national commitments to financial inclusion and helping mobile banking reach critical mass."
6. German measles (Rubella) is eradicated in the Americas (2015).
This year, North and South America were declared "free of endemic rubella, thanks to a massive, 15-year effort to vaccinate men, women, and children everywhere in the hemisphere," Gates writes.
7. More children lived to see their fifth birthdays (2014).
This one will put a lump in your throat, but part of the way we measure child mortality around the world is by how many children make it to their fifth birthday. In 2014, more children reached this milestone than ever before in the history of the world.
8. Related: Child mortality drops big time (2013).
Cynics might point out that more children living to their fifth birthday might be tempered by the fact that the world population is bigger than ever. However, square that with the fact that in 2013, data showed that child mortality was just half of what it was in 1990.
9. More people are being treated for HIV than infected with it (2014).
Data released in 2014 showed that the balance had tipped in this positive direction. As Gates pointed out: "Treating people not only keeps them alive; it also dramatically reduces the odds that they will pass the virus on to anyone else."
10. The rotavirus vaccine reaches more kids than ever (2014).
"When I read an article in the late 1990s that mentioned a diarrheal disease called rotavirus that killed hundreds of thousands of kids a year, I couldn't believe something I'd never even heard of was killing that many children," Gates wrote. Now there's a cheap vaccine that has cut the number of casualties in half.
11. Scientists found a new anti-tuberculosis treatment (2014).
TB is yet another disease we tend to think of as belonging in the dustbin of history, but which is still prevalent in some parts of the world. If the new treatment works out, Gates wrote, "it could dramatically reduce the time it takes to cure drug-resistant TB and save poor countries billions of dollars in health-care costs."
12. Nigeria kicked Ebola's butt (2014).
Remember No. 1 on this list? Well, the infrastructure Nigeria built to fight polio also helped it eradicate Ebola during the 2014 crisis.
13. Worldwide, poverty is way down (2013).
"The poverty rate has dropped by half since 1990," Gates wrote." [T]he biggest factor: ... economic growth--growth that touches not just those who are already rich, but a broad range of people."
Got a story that you think should've been included? Contact me.