$150 Million Public-Private Initiative Launched to Reduce Health Inequities in Mesoamerica

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Health Institute of the Carlos Slim Foundation, the government of Spain, and the Inter-American Development Bank have announced the launch of a $150 million initiative to reduce health inequities affecting millions of poor people in Mesoamerican countries and to support government efforts in the region to achieve the health Millennium Development Goals.

Funded with $50 million each from Spain and the Gates and Slim foundations, the five-year Salud Mesoamérica 2015 initiative will promote the use of health services and the adoption of healthier behaviors for the poorest 20 percent of the population in Central America and southern Mexico in the areas of reproductive health, maternal and neo-natal health, maternal and child nutrition, immunization, and preventing and controlling dengue and malaria. IDB will serve as the agency responsible for working with the region's governments to prepare, implement, and monitor projects funded by the initiative, commission independent evaluations, and manage the donors' funds.

To that end, the initiative will work in partnership with the health ministries of Mesoamerican countries and the Mesoamerican Public Health System, which is part of the Proyecto Mesoamérica regional integration platform. In contrast to many other international programs, countries will not compete for resources under SM2015; instead, funding amounts will be allocated based on countries' poverty and health inequality status, with individual governments responsible for selecting the projects to be financed and creating incentives for equitable allocation of domestic funding.

Expected results of the effort include a significant decrease in the mortality rate of children under the age of 5; a reduction in chronic and micronutrient malnutrition among children and pregnant women; and improvements in coverage and quality of childhood vaccination, pre- and post-natal care, and access to family planning.

"Multilateral institutions like the IDB can provide an umbrella to bring together resources and expertise from organizations like our prestigious partners committed to reducing health equity gaps," said IDB president Luis Alberto Moreno. "Salud Mesoamérica 2015 is a catalytic force to bring about measurable results in the health conditions of the poor living in this region."