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The Magic Number

By Jackie Powder

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had a question.

Late last fall, the Foundation asked the School’s Institute for International Programs (IIP) to project the impact of ramping up vaccine coverage in the world’s poorest countries over the next 10 years. Using LiST (the Lives Saved Tool), a new computer modeling program developed by a Bloomberg School-led consortium, researchers estimated that the increased vaccine coverage could save the lives of 7.6 million children under 5 from 2010 to 2019.

Fast forward to January, when Bill and Melinda Gates announced that their Foundation was pledging $10 billion to develop and deliver vaccines in developing countries over the next decade.

In citing the 7.6 million figure, the Foundation credited the School with crunching the numbers and specifically referenced LiST, which was developed to support donor planning at the global and national level.

Neff Walker, PhD, a senior scientist in International Health who coordinates LiST projects, says that LiST is a public health computer modeling program that analyzes country- and region-specific data on disease burden and intervention effectiveness to identify maternal and child-survival programs with the potential to save the most lives.

“Before people decide how to spend the money,” Walker says, “they want some way to estimate what the possible benefits are. What’s the bottom line? What are we going to get for it?”