New alliance aims to align global health activities in the Bay Area

Lisa Foster, senior advisor at the Bay Area Global Health Alliance. Photo by: Alissa Pagels-Minor

SAN FRANCISCO — While a growing number of organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area are taking on global health challenges, their efforts are not as coordinated as they could be. A new initiative aims to change that.

The Bay Area Global Health Alliance will bring together a network of organizations ranging from nonprofits to companies to universities, to strengthen their global health impact. The alliance builds on the success of the Washington Global Health Alliance, which has served as an adviser to other regional alliances from Atlanta, Georgia to Melbourne, Australia.

Lisa Foster, who previously worked on Facebook’s global health efforts and is now a senior advisor to this new initiative, announced the formation of the alliance at Devex’s Prescription for Progress event held in San Francisco on Tuesday that gathered key stakeholders in an effort to connect the dots between global health activities in the Bay Area.

“There is so much innovation and so many good investments but it is disconnected and it’s fragmented — and we’ve heard that here today,” Foster said at the event.

How to engage Silicon Valley in global development

Devex speaks with a range of Silicon Valley liaisons to gather takeaways for organizations and agencies looking to more successfully engage with the West Coast.

Together with Amy Adelberger of Global Impact Advisors, a planning group carried out research that involved phone calls as well as an in-person planning meeting with Bay Area leaders from a range of sectors to get their input on what value an effort like this might bring to their global health work.

“We heard your feedback, we recognized there’s a gap, and we think the time is now to begin,” said Foster, who previously helped spearhead health at Facebook as part of the policy programs team. “We deeply feel that the partnership opportunities, the funding opportunities, will all accelerate as we elevate the role and the impact that the Bay Area can have.”

So far, supporters of the alliance include Gilead Sciences, Chevron, Global Impact Advisors, PATH, and programs from the University of California, Berkeley, UC Davis, UCSF, and Stanford.

The Bay Area Global Health Alliance is still forming its leadership team, and is still in the midst of fundraising, but expects to launch its programming next year.

Lisa Cohen, founder of the Washington Global Health Alliance, who was recognized at the Prescription for Progress event, said that while these alliances can be launched with a relatively small amount of investment, fundraising can be one of the greatest barriers to these coalitions taking shape.

“Funders say they want organizations to partner, and an alliance provides a framework to realize those potential partnerships. But the reality is they don't invest in the time and talent essential to creating those partnerships. I hope that funders rethink this approach because the return on investment in terms of impact can be enormous,” Cohen told Devex in a past interview.

“The Bay Area is a hub for innovation in technology and science. The unique mix of biomedical startups, tech giants, nonprofits, academic researchers, private foundations and venture capitalists can serve as a powerful catalyst to advance innovations in healthcare both locally and internationally,” said Gregg Alton, chief patient officer at Gilead Sciences, in a press release provided to Devex ahead of the announcement.

“Gilead is pleased to support the formation of the Bay Area Global Health Alliance to better connect the capabilities of this region to help address some of
the world’s most pressing healthcare challenges.”

Devex, with financial support from our partner MSD for Mothers, is exploring how the private sector is driving innovations in global health. Visit the Focus on: Future of Health Partnerships page for more.

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    Catherine Cheney

    Catherine Cheney is a Senior Reporter for Devex. She covers the West Coast of the U.S., focusing on the role of technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And she frequently represents Devex as a speaker and moderator. Prior to joining Devex, Catherine earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University, worked as a web producer for POLITICO and reporter for World Politics Review, and helped to launch NationSwell. Catherine has reported from all over the world, and freelanced for outlets including the Atlantic and the Washington Post. She is also the West Coast ambassador for the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit that trains and connects journalists to cover responses to problems.