Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Saving 100 Million People

Thomas Freiden, who ran the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for eight years under President Barack Obama, has a new thing going: a global health initiative focused on heart health and epidemic preparedness that he believes can save 100 million lives around the world, reports the New York Times.

Frieden announced the new initiative, called Resolve, this week in The Lancet. It's funded with $225 million over five years by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and will be based at NYC public health nonprofit Vital Strategies.

In an interview with the Times, Frieden says the initiative is focusing on sodium reduction, trans fats and blood pressure control because "there are other things that either work but haven't been scaled up, or that we don't know how to do. So if you can get everyone eating a Mediterranean diet? That'd be great. Show me how to do it. If you can get everyone to be more physically active? That'd be great. Show me how to do it. No society has done that overall in a sustainable way."

Frieden wants to completely get rid of trans fats. And he says the key to reducing salt in people's diets is to do it gradually, rather that trying to do it all at once. "You've got to get industry to work voluntarily to lower sodium. And you've got to change habits about how much salt people add at the table and to their cooking," he tells the Times.

But his top priority his blood pressure control. "Globally, we're at 14 percent control. US is about 54, 55 percent. At the CDC we did a couple of pilots; Malawi went from 0 to 35 percent in 15 months," he tells the Times.

Big improvements will come from decentralizing treatments and bringing them closer to patients, as well as lowering costs for medications, Frieden says. But it's also a very big problem: "Of the 1.5 billion today people with hypertension 1.1 billion don't have it controlled," he tells the Times.

Frieden also says he's eager to tackle epidemic preparedness, the gaps in which were made glaringly apparent by the recent Ebola crisis. 

"You do an assessment to see where you really are. Then you do a plan and see how much money you need. Then you get the money. Then you implement the program and then you figure out how to sustain it," he tells the Times. "So, five steps along the way. Two years ago, we were at zero for all five. Now we have 54 countries that have gone through the assessment, four or five that have done plans, and none for the next three levels. We're going to move that along."