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Bill Roedy

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Saving Lives: Could There Be Any Better Return on Investment?

Posted: 11/04/11 07:08 PM ET

Vaccines have been touted by economists, health experts and world leaders alike as one of the best buys in public health, and they are one of the safest and most effective ways to save children's lives and protect entire communities from infectious diseases. A quick jab in the arm or drop in the mouth can provide a lifetime of protection against some of the deadliest threats we face.

With the tools at hand to prevent disease and help save millions of lives, why not do everything in our power to help? And in this economy, why not invest in a sure thing?

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI Alliance), which has helped immunize nearly 300 million children in more than 70 countries since it was founded in 2000, has just announced a major new initiative aimed at engaging private sector leaders: the GAVI Matching Fund.

Through this program, the British Government's Department for International Development (DFID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide a 100% match of contributions to GAVI from corporations and foundations as well as their customers, members and employees. Together, DFID and the Gates Foundation have pledged $130 million to support this effort, which means there's the potential to generate $260 million for global childhood immunization efforts.

So, why GAVI, with so many good causes vying for support?

With a low overhead and an unprecedented track record of success, GAVI is a lean and results-focused Alliance that leverages the best of the public and private sectors for the common global good. Over the next four years alone, it is set to double the life-saving impact it had over the last decade -- but GAVI can't do it without our help.

One child dies every 20 seconds from pneumonia -- a disease that could have been prevented with a vaccine, and that's just unacceptable -- especially when you consider many of these deaths happen in countries that often don't even have the facilities needed to treat deadly infectious threats. Prevention is key and achievable, so let's make it happen.

After more than 30 years in the business world, I appreciate performance and any business would aspire to GAVI's return on investment. There's no doubt that doing social good is good business when done smartly. I commend the four entities that have already contributed to this project -- ARK, "la Caixa" Foundation, J.P. Morgan and AngloAmerican plc -- and I urge other CEOs to consider joining the effort together with their employees, customers and business partners.

Today, the world is too interconnected for corporate leaders not to think globally. Getting involved in such an initiative offers a chance to expand your reach, strengthen your brand, tap into new channels, and impress your staff and customers by doing social good with the best experts in the field. This is your chance to do something bigger than your brand, something lasting and life changing -- giving a shot at a healthy life to the poorest kids in the world.

With financial support, the GAVI Alliance can vaccinate 250 million children by 2015. With a sound investor offering to double your money, there's even more reason and urgency to act now.

Just think: A $3 million donation -- matched by DFID or the Gates Foundation -- would buy enough vaccines to immunize more than a half million children against pneumococcal disease in 2012 -- one of the main causes of death from pneumonia -- or nearly a million children against diarrhea caused by rotavirus. I can't think of a better return on investment.

So I ask you, why not invest in a sure thing, when a 100% match to your investment is guaranteed?

Bill Roedy is the former CEO of MTV Networks and a GAVI Alliance Envoy.