CHICAGO (Reuters) – Former U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden on Tuesday announced the start of a new public health initiative funded by private philanthropies to fight heart disease and stroke and shore up infectious disease capabilities around the world.
The new initiative, called Resolve, will be funded by $225 million in backing from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation.
“There are proven strategies every country can use to prevent deaths from heart disease, stroke, and epidemics – but progress has been painfully slow,” said Frieden, president and chief executive of Resolve, which will be housed at Vital Strategies, a New York-based global health organization that works in more than 60 countries.
For Frieden, the initiative allows him to take on some unfinished business. As part of the $5.4 billion in Ebola emergency funding for fiscal 2015, the CDC got $1.2 billion for international efforts to bolster countries’ capabilities to identify and fight infectious disease outbreaks.
“Those dollars will expire within the next year or so,” Frieden said in a telephone briefing.
To fight heart disease, the group will invest in efforts to reduce the amount of artery-clogging trans-fats from their menus, a reprise of Frieden’s efforts in 2006 as New York City health commissioner to ban trans-fats from restaurants.
They also aim to support countries’ efforts to reduce sodium and increase treatment of high blood pressure, which kills 10 million people every year, more than from all infectious diseases combined.
“If the world is able to increase our blood pressure control rate from the current 14 percent to 50 percent, reduce dietary sodium by 30 percent and get to zero trans-fats, we can save 100 million lives from cardiovascular disease over the next 30 years,” Frieden told reporters on a conference call.
The effort also continues Frieden’s push at the CDC to bolster global capabilities to identify and respond to infectious disease.
“The Ebola epidemic revealed how vulnerable we are to threats, and was a stark reminder of the human and economic costs caused by the absence of strong public health systems,” he said.
Resolve’s infectious disease arm attempts to plug gaps in low- and middle-income countries’ capabilities to respond to outbreaks. These efforts will focus on building disease tracking systems, laboratory networks and disease detectives “so new threats are identified quickly,” he said.
Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Jonathan Oatis