The Zuckerberg billions could be put to better use



Financial Times, 29 September 2016:

The solution to most preventable diseases is obvious and does not require a century of research (“Mark Zuckerberg pledges $3bn ‘to end all illness’ ”,, September 22).

Of the 56m deaths that occur annually, 6m are linked to smoking, 4.3m to indoor and 3.7m to outdoor air pollution, so the solution to almost one quarter of all deaths is education.

Next come alcohol-related deaths (3.3m), obesity (2.8m) HIV/Aids (1.5m), diarrhoea (1.5m) and road fatalities (1.3m). Of these, the first, second and fifth are self-inflicted, while the other two are eminently preventable. Warfare is a diminishing cause of mortality, having fallen from 24 per 100,000 of the population in 1950 to less than one in this century, which equates to fewer than 70,000 deaths per annum.

Mr Zuckerberg’s boastful commitment may of course be referring to the hundreds of genetic conditions that affect children, or the myriad types of cancer that afflict adults, but if that is his intent, then he and his paediatrician wife are deluding themselves. Far better to spend the money on new ways to mitigate climate change, as unchecked global warming will release the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, whose victims will be measured, not in millions, but in billions.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Chair, Help Rescue the Planet,
Stoke Poges, Bucks, UK