Former CDC Director Frieden To Head New Global Initiative To Prevent
Heart Disease, Stroke, And Epidemics
Focus Is On “Low
Hanging Fruit” In Global Health
contemplating his next career move, former CDC Director Tom Frieden
asked himself where and how he could make the most difference, and
global public health was his answer. Now, in what appears to be a
global public health initiative customized to his experience, skills,
and interests, Frieden has been selected to head Resolve To Save
Lives, a five year initiative launched this month with 225 million
dollars from the Bloomberg Philanthropies,
Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Bill
& Melinda Gates Foundation .
Two Efforts Under One Initiative
initiative brings together under one leader efforts to combat both
communicable and non-communicable diseases, two very different
“families” of public health
Working on such dissimilar threats is something rarely seen before in
launches of new public health initiatives, for example those targeted
against tobacco, drug abuse, road accidents, or obesity.
Resolve To Save Lives will tackle heart disease and stroke and
infectious disease epidemic prevention. While the approaches to
combatting each of these will require very different actions, what
they have in common is that proven effective interventions exist to
combat both sets of problems, and these interventions are
underutilized, especially in low to middle income countries. This is
the opportunity Frieden is trying to capitalize on to save 100 million
lives over the next thirty years.
According to Resolve, “Both of these issues are at a tipping point.
Without significant investment and attention now---millions of
preventable deaths will continue to occur and the world will not be
safe from the next disease threat.” In short, they represent
“low-hanging fruit” in global public health.
What are these interventions? For heart disease and
stroke, Resolve will work to increase blood pressure control, reduce
dietary sodium intake, and eliminate artificial trans fats. To prevent
epidemics, Resolve will develop surveillance systems, train more
epidemiologists or disease detectives, support public health labs, and
develop rapid response teams when outbreaks occur.
As Frieden told the New York Times in an interview about the new
initiative, “why are we only focusing on sodium reduction, trans fats,
and blood pressure control? There are other things [such as a
Mediterranean diet or increase physical activity] that either work but
haven’t been scaled up, or that we don’t know how to do. The Resolve
interventions are all actions where evidence exists to demonstrate
For example, Resolve cites the
success in Canada in achieving nearly 70% blood pressure control, the
success in Denmark and New York City in eliminating trans fats from
foods, and the success in the United Kingdom in decreasing sodium
consumption and associated heart disease and stroke. In short, there
are public health interventions that have been successfully scaled up
and produced measurable impacts in different populations and these
have created and these have created benchmark goals that are
attractive and achievable for other countries. In short, there is
“proof of concept” for the interventions envisaged by Resolve and the
entire initiative could be framed as a major push to better translate
proven data into action.
According to Frieden, “There are proven strategies every country can
use to prevent deaths from heart disease, stroke, and epidemics – but
progress has been painfully slow…”
Goals for the
setting goals for these interventions, Resolve has targeted increasing
global control of blood pressure from 12 to 50%, reducing global
dietary sodium intake by 30%, and eliminating trans fats completely.
In preventing outbreaks, Resolve has understandably not provided the
number of epidemics it will seek to prevent or lives it will seek to
save, however, the proven valuable activities they will undertake
strengthen disease tracking systems – so that unusual events are
noticed and investigated.
networks – so that new and emerging threats are identified promptly.
Develop and support
“disease detectives” – epidemiologists to track and investigate
diseases and outbreaks.
Develop rapid response teams – to investigate and stop outbreaks,
working out of functional emergency operations centers which operate
under structured, effective incident management systems.
Resolve will be implemented by a team of global health
experts at Vital Strategies, a New York-based global health
organization that works in more than 60 countries.
learn more about the new initiative, visit :