Gates to keynote NIH Foundation's mobile health event in November

Remember the noise I made back in June about the potential for elitism in mobile healthcare because the media were excluded from a first-ever World Economic Forum meeting on m-health? I'm here to say today that sometimes, having a billionaire on board isn't such a bad thing--especially if the event is open to the public and if the billionaire in question is Bill Gates.

We've learned in the last week or so that Gates, a regular at World Economic Forum events in Davos, Switzerland, will keynote the 2010 mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C., a meeting organized by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. On Nov. 9, the co-founder of Microsoft and now co-chair and trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will lead an interactive session on opportunities for mobile technologies to improve healthcare and health outcomes in developing regions of the world.

Now we're talking. I've often written about how mobile healthcare is so vital to the developing world because mobile phones have become nearly ubiquitous, even in poor nations and have the potential to expand access to care quite dramatically, with a relatively small per-capita investment. And the Gates Foundation has been active in health IT already.

In December 2008, I broke the story that the Gates Foundation had awarded a $1.2 million grant to the American Medical Informatics Association to promote global health informatics education. The foundation also funded a program in Pakistan to track infant pneumonia by RFID and was an active participant in the m-health portion of the Rockefeller Foundation's Making the eHealth Connection conferences in Italy in 2008. (The Rockefeller Foundation, through its involvement in the mHealth Alliance, is a co-sponsor of the November mHealth Summit where Gates is speaking.)

Obviously, Gates isn't in it for the money. He's pledged 99 percent of his sizable fortune to charity, and has gotten fellow multibillionaire Warren Buffett to do the same. On the contrary, Gates has dedicated his life to bettering the lives of the world's less fortunate, and mobile health is but one outlet. I can't wait to hear what he has to say in November--and this time I will be allowed in the door. - Neil