THE BLOG
10/17/2011 02:25 pm ET | Updated Dec 17, 2011

Band-Aids Will Not Stop the Bleeding

On October 11, I participated in a Congressional Roundtable on centers of healthcare excellence in Africa and the contributions of the U.S. private sector in driving health innovation and leadership. The Roundtable was hosted by Accordia Global Health Foundation, the organization responsible for the creation of the Infectious Diseases Institute in Uganda, which does such remarkable work in helping HIV patients like Jackie regain their health and life purpose (please see last week's post for Jackie's story).

At the Roundtable, I hosted a panel of representatives from American corporations who have a long history of philanthropy, particularly focused on health in Africa -- Becton, Dickinson and Company; Pfizer; Gilead Science and ExxonMobil.

As an entrepreneur and philanthropist, I am committed to finding the most effective ways to make a difference in the issues facing our world. Americans are among the most generous people in the world, giving more money to charities than citizens of any other nation in the world. Much of our charity goes to disaster relief -- it seems there is always another emergency that needs vast quantities of resources and immediate attention.

But I believe we can do more. We need to think long-term and become true partners in reshaping history. We need to boldly invest in innovative responses to Africa's problems that are relevant locally, and that put Africans in the driver's seat of determining the future of their continent.

Sheila Johnson joins Hank McKinnell, former Chairman and CEO of Pfizer, Inc, and Chair of the Accordia Global Health Foundation Board (left), Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, and Representative Donald Payne of New Jersey, for the October 11 Congressional Roundtable. McKinnell was a driving force behind Pfizer's transformative $60 million investment in Infectious Diseases Institute. Senator Barrasso and Rep. Payne are members of their respective chambers' foreign relations committee.

The Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) is an excellent example of this new philosophy -- it was born out of a vision shared between a non-profit foundation, Accordia; a large multi-national corporation Pfizer Inc.; and Makerere University, Uganda's premier medical training institution. Pfizer made the bold decision to make a large scale, transformative investment to establish the Institute from scratch -- 60 million dollars over ten years, and committed to investing its private sector talents to ensure the venture worked.

Today, IDI is a center of excellence for health care in Africa -- that has touched the lives of over one million, and is entirely African-owned and African-led. The Institute leads Uganda in defining new models of locally relevant healthcare, and training the next generation of health leaders.

What I'm proposing isn't for the faint of heart. It requires corporations and philanthropists to stretch beyond easy, one-time emergency donations and short-term projects. It may not feel as good, as quickly, as say child sponsorship, or food aid.

But if we're going to help prevent these emergencies from happening in the first place, and support Africa in driving its own development, we need to think long-term, be innovative, and make strategic commitments. This applies to every donor at every level.

We need to be bold in our charity and redefine philanthropy into more than just a band-aid.

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