INDIANAPOLIS - Five global healthcare companies, including Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY), are teaming up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to increase basic healthcare needs in six African countries.

The companies and the foundation intend to fund the training of thousands of community health workers as part of a larger initiative to help provide primary care for 1.7 million people.

This public-private venture is administered by two non-governmental organizations (NGO), Living Goods and Last Mile Health.

“Public-private collaboration is critical to help governments lower barriers to quality care and innovative medicines that save and improve people’s lives,” said Dave Ricks, chairman and chief executive officer of Lilly.

The Health Worker Training Initiative is a three-year investment, matched by nonprofit The Audacious Project, and totals $18 million.  Each of the six investors, including Lilly, will contribute $1.5 million in total over the next three years.

This partnership is a response to the growing call to action globally to advance universal health coverage.

“Focused investment in community health workers can accelerate progress to make universal health coverage a reality,” said Ricks.

The organization says this investment will support the sustainability of community health worker programs. The NGO’s say they will deploy 2,500 community health workers to the six nations.

In addition to financial contributions, industry partners will contribute disease-specific expertise and experience in the discovery and development of new tools, which will supplement the community health worker models.