It's perhaps most famous for handing out annual “genius” grants to academics and artists. But now the MacArthur Foundation has its sights set on bigger game: solving a global problem.
Out of 1,900 proposals, it selected eight semifinalists for the $100 million prize. Five deal with healthcare-related issues: malnutrition, cataracts, uninsured Americans, newborn deaths in Africa and river blindness.
Titled 100&Change, the competition was open to organizations in any field anywhere in the world as long as the proposal identified a problem affecting people, or the entire planet, and a way to solve it.
The healthcare semifinalists are:
- The Carter Center's project targets river blindness, which “affects an estimated 32.7 million people worldwide,” according to the foundation. The goal is teaching volunteers to give the drug ivermectin (Mectizan, donated by Merck & Co.), initially in Nigeria and then other countries.
- HarvestPlus is targeting malnutrition in developing countries. The group proposes using conventional plant breeding to enhance staple crops, starting in Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia.
- The Himalayan Cataract Project wants to train community caregivers to offer inexpensive cataract and laser surgery, beginning in Nepal, Ethiopia and Ghana.
- The Human Diagnosis Project wants to partner with physician societies, licensing boards and academic institutions to treat patients via telehealth.
- The Rice 360° Institute for Global Health from Rice University aims to provide education and low-cost technology and care in Africa for help in “keeping babies warm, helping them breathe, diagnosing infections, treating neonatal jaundice, managing labor and delivery,” the foundation said.