Historic gift helps launch global health metrics institute

The largest gift in University of Washington history has helped create the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a new research center that will conduct independent, rigorous evaluations of health programs worldwide, the UW announced June 4.

The institute will be supported by a new $105 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and $20 million from the UW.

Its goal is to help guide international policymaking by providing high-quality data and analysis on health needs and outcomes, and by assessing the performance of health programs.

“This generous grant from the Gates Foundation is a milestone for the University of Washington,” says President Mark A. Emmert, ’75. “This is the largest private gift in the UW’s history, and it will enable us, together with critical funding provided by Governor Gregoire and the state Legislature in the 2007 session, to bring unparalleled talent and resources to bear on the world’s greatest health challenges. We are grateful to the Gates Foundation and to the leadership in Olympia for making all of this possible.”

The new institute will be directed by Christopher Murray, a world-renowned health economist who was appointed in May to the faculty of the UW Department of Global Health. Murray was previously director of the Harvard University Initiative for Global Health and is a former senior official at the World Health Organization.

“Chris Murray is the ideal leader for the institute,” says Medical School Dean Paul G. Ramsey. “He is one of the foremost experts on health evaluation, and his pioneering research has had a wide-ranging impact.”

The institute will focus on three main areas:

  • Health monitoring: Collecting and analyzing data on health indicators and trends, such as the prevalence of major diseases and the availability of health services.
  • Program evaluation: Conducting independent, rigorous evaluations of the results and effectiveness of health programs.
  • Dissemination: Making health data and information freely available to decision-makers, researchers and the public.

When fully operational, the institute will consist of more than 100 faculty and staff. It will also establish an international network of collaborating research centers, and provide fellowships to train junior researchers.

“We hope to set the gold standard for scientifically rigorous evaluation in health,” says Murray. “Global health spending is on the rise, yet too often there are gaps in information about where these funds can have the greatest impact.”

The institute will be guided by an international board of health experts chaired by Julio Frenk, a senior fellow at the Gates Foundation and Mexico’s former minister of health.

The creation of the institute comes on the heels of the UW’s establishment of a Department of Global Health that is jointly administered by the School of Medicine and School of Public Health and Community Medicine. The UW has a long history of research and service projects worldwide.

“We have more than 250 grants and over 300 faculty involved working in more than 50 countries worldwide,” President Emmert says. “Seattle is a leader in international health, and the University is proud to be part of this important work.”