There’s been a lot of buzz about the region’s growing global health industry over the last two years, and for good reason: with the largest philanthropic investor in this industry in the world (Gates Foundation) here in our backyard, combined with leading research institutions in global health (University of Washington’s School of Global Health, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute) and internationally-recognized service delivery organizations (PATH), we’re pretty well situated to become THE epicenter for this industry in the world. But a lot of people are still confused as to how a cluster that’s focused on helping the world’s poorest people survive the world’s most widespread diseases translates into economic prosperity for our region.
Of course, you can start by answering that question directly with an economic impact study: approximately $4.1 billion. But I think that might actually be too literal an answer. You probably saw that the Washington Global Health Alliance just completed a mapping project that shows 1) where our locally-based global health organizations have facilities worldwide and 2) how many research projects are taking place in each country. It’s already impressive, and this first run at the project doesn’t include all the work being funded by the Gates Foundation around the world that doesn’t involve local partners.
I thought that Lisa Cohen, the WGHA director, had a great point about the economic development implications of these global outposts: “Mapping the network also could help state businesses and nonprofits get connected to opportunities in places where global health projects have paved the way, such as China and India, Cohen said.” We already know that we’re one of the most trade-dependent states in the entire country, and that these developing nations are going to increasingly become huge markets for our products – from agriculture to software to airplanes. Building stronger relationships with the government and citizens of these countries can’t hurt.