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Rotary convention boosts city’s global health image

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on June 16, 2017

Atlanta’s role as a leading hub for global health held center-stage during the 2017 Rotary International convention – an event where nearly 36,000 Rotarians, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and numerous other partners committed another $1.2 billion towards the efforts of eradicating polio over the next three years.

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Bill Gates and John Germ on the big screen at Rotary International convention (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Atlanta was the perfect venue for that announcement. It was here where Rotary first launched its foundation 100 years ago – a centennial celebrated at the culmination of the convention with birthday parties on June 14.

Atlanta also is the home of many global health organizations, including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, The Carter Center, the Task Force for Global Health, MedShare International and MAP International.

MAP hosted a dinner June 11 where it launched the first annual Bill Foege Global Health Awards named after the godfather of global health.

The events of the past week were especially moving for Steve Stirling, MAP International’s CEO who is a polio survivor and one of Georgia’s key leaders working to bring the state’s global health community closer together.

“This week helped to solidify Atlanta as the center for global health,” Stirling said about MAP’s Bill Foege Global Health Award (given to the Gates Foundation and Rotary International) as well as the Rotary convention. “The Atlanta community came together physically as one this week.…”

Dr. Judy Monroe, president of the CDC Foundation, said the week also provided an opportunity for the CDC, the Carter Center and others to talk about their efforts to beat back Ebola, to eradicate the guinea worm and to forge public-private partnerships for global efforts.

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CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield interviews philanthropist Bill Gates and Rotary International President John Germ (Photo by Maria Saporta)

“Georgia is a unique center for global health and this was illuminated for Rotarians and guests to see at the Bill Foege Global Health Awards dinner on Sunday evening for Rotarians,” Monroe said. “Many of Georgia’s global health organizations, including the CDC Foundation, have worked together for years, but there are more opportunities to collaborate and capitalize on each organizations’ strengths. Now is the time for Georgia’s global health organizations to work closer together to unleash the greater potential to serve the world through our partnerships.”

That is exactly the goal of the Georgia Global Health Alliance, a relatively new organization that is bringing the partners together around the same table.

“The Alliance is trying to cultivate the champions for global health in Georgia,” said Maria Thacker Goethe, executive director of the Alliance. “All these partners get along right now, but they really have the potential to collaborate and do even more than they already do.”

The Alliance is working with the Metro Atlanta Chamber to market the region as a center for global health. The Alliance also is undertaking an economic mapping study to better understand the value of the global health sector in Georgia. The results should be released in six months, and it will help quantify the state as a center, or even “the” center for global health in the United States, if not the world.

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Bill Foege at the podium during MAP International’s inaugural Global Health Awards in Foege’s honor (Photo by Maria Saporta)

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Veteran communications executive – Bob Hope – with Bill and Paula Foege (Photo by Maria Saporta)

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Bill Foege makes a point while his wife, Paula, listens along with Sook Hee and Steve Stirling (Photo by Maria Saporta)

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Bill Gates and John Germ on the big screen at Rotary International convention (Photo by Maria Saporta)

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Rotary celebrates raising $1.2 billion for its fight to eradicate polio (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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