Former CDC Head Announces New $225 Million Global Health Initiative

Tom Frieden may no longer be the director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but that was not the end of his commitment to a healthier world. Indeed, the former CDC head has launched new initiative to address some of global health’s most complicated issues: cardiovascular disease and epidemics.

Also a former New York City health commissioner, Frieden was the CDC head for the seven years of the Obama administration’s plight to be more effective at improving health conditions at home and abroad. It was probably from this experience that he chose the two issues for his initiative. In fact, he says the choice was based on his “unique vantage point of surveying the world and seeing where there were areas that really are at a tipping point.”

Cardiovascular disease is the culprit behind 18 million global deaths each year—about 31 percent of all worldwide mortality. In lower income-countries, though, nearly half of cardiovascular disease-related deaths occur among people under the age of 70.

As such, Frieden has launched “Resolve,” announcing the $225 million initiative this week, in New York, as a new effort to reduce the global burden of heart disease and stroke. These are, of course, the two leading causes of death around the world. In addition, though, the initiative looks to put more focus on helping low- and middle-income countries to better fight infectious disease epidemics. They will focus on strengthening laboratory networks across the globe in order to more promptly address emerging threats. They will also train those who seek out disease to better investigate disease outbreaks, including those which can jump between species.

Commenting on this move, Frieden notes part of his motivation was his frustration over how long it takes to get additional critical funding during major public health emergencies, like Zika. As such, the CDC director “I hope five years from now we’ll look back and see this was the infection point for rapid progress in preventing global cardiovascular disease deaths and improving epidemic preparedness. In a few years, we hope that blood pressure control, sodium reduction, elimination of trans fats and strong public health systems will have become the new normal.”