By Peter Singer
Merit is global, opportunity is not. Bridging the gap is what merit means to me.
Countries have only two exit strategies from poverty: non-corrupt exploitation of natural resources and mining the ideas and talent of citizens. And yet many elements impede opportunities for innovators in developing countries to pursue their bold ideas and create economic and social benefits for themselves, their families and their communities.
About 6.9 million children die under 5 years of age – most in the developing world and most preventable. This high child mortality translates into high fertility, population growth, and resource scarcity. Of those who survive, 200 million children do not reach their full potential due to threats to their cognitive development in the first 1,000 days of life from malnutrition, lack of stimulation from parents, prematurity, and infection. Mental health conditions, which account for 15% of the global burden of disease, are stigmatized and untreated. Entrepreneurs have difficulties accessing risk capital and mentorship to turn their bold ideas into social enterprises.
I am humbled honoured to lead Grand Challenges Canada which is dedicated to supporting bold ideas with big impact in global health. We are funded by the Government of Canada and we fund innovators in low- and middle- income countries and Canada. The bold ideas integrate science and technology, social and business innovation (we call this Integrated Innovation) and we work to catalyze scale, sustainability and impact. We have a determined focus on results, and saving and improving lives.
Grand Challenges Canada is closing the gap between opportunity and merit in global health in the developing world. For someone whose parents were immigrants to Canada, it is certainly one of the most rewarding experiences of my life to be able to help extend that same Canadian belief in opportunity from which I so greatly benefited to the developing world.
Peter Singer, OC, MD (UCC ’78) is Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada and Director at the Sandra Rotman Centre (University Health Network and University of Toronto). He is also Professor of Medicine at University of Toronto, and the Foreign Secretary of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Dr. Singer was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2011 for his contributions to health research and bioethics, and for his dedication to improving the health of people in developing countries. In 2007, Dr. Singer received the Michael Smith Prize as Canada’s Health Researcher of the Year in Population Health and Health Services. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, the U.S. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS).