The black box warning on philanthrocapitalism

by Jocalyn Clarke, Linsey McGoey
The Lancet, Vol. 388, No. 10059, pp. 2457–2459, 19 November 2016

3 pp. 254 kB

On Sept 21, 2016, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced plans to invest US$ 3 billion in a mission to “cure, prevent or manage all diseases” by 2100, part of an earlier promise to donate 99% of their stock in Facebook, a company Zuckerberg founded. It is the latest example in a growing number of pledges by billionaires to give away their wealth for social causes rather than pass it down to descendants. On the face of it, the pledge by Zuckerberg and Chan is generous, worthy, and inspired. It encapsulates a new force in global health funding, philanthrocapitalism; a term coined to describe philanthropists harnessing the market to make their giving more efficient and achieve better results. But is it good for health? Aside from the unlikelihood of US$ 3 billion being enough to manage all disease, there are at least three reasons why the global health community should pay more critical attention to the potentially adverse effects of philanthrocapitalism.

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