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March 9, 2007 at 12:09 PM

Gates Foundation hires former Mexico health secretary

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has hired Julio Frenk, the former health secretary of Mexico, as a senior fellow in its global health program. It’s an interesting choice for a few reasons.

Frenk is a physician who directed health policy for six years in the administration of President Vicente Fox.

During that time, the foundation notes, Mexico’s maternal mortality rate fell more than 20 percent, and the country was one of only seven to make sufficient progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015.

Frenk came under fire from some conservatives for his decision to provide free “morning after” birth control pills in government hospitals and clinics. He also introduced a broad health insurance system for the country.

His experience at the World Health Organization could prove valuable for the foundation. At WHO, he was executive director of evidence and information policy, and later a candidate for director general. There Frenk worked closely with Christopher Murray, a Harvard professor whom the foundation and the UW are trying to recruit to head a new Health Metrics Institute at the university.

The institute, which would be launched with a $100 million grant from the Gates Foundation, would specialize in measuring and evaluating the health of people in the world’s poorest countries. At the foundation, Frenk’s new job description includes strengthening the monitoring and evaluation of health programs. Maybe he’s already given Murray a call.

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