Bloomberg, CZI, Gates join forces in their 'resolve' to save lives

A health worker takes the blood pressure of a patient. Photo by: World Granny / CC BY-NC

SAN FRANCISCO — With $225 million, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today launched Resolve, a five-year initiative focused on preventing cardiovascular disease and epidemics.

“There are proven strategies every country can use to prevent deaths from heart disease, stroke, and epidemics — but progress has been painfully slow,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, president and CEO of Resolve, who was formerly the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a statement. “Heart attacks and strokes are the world’s leading killers — including of working-age adults. Lessons learned during the Ebola epidemic can reduce the risk of future epidemics. Each intervention is at a tipping point, and these investments will tip the scales in favor of saving lives and protecting health.”

Resolve will be implemented by a team of global health professionals at Vital Strategies, a New York-based organization working to improve public health systems in more than 60 countries, whose major donors include Bloomberg Philanthropies. The initiative will consist of two programs, one that aims to save more than 100 million lives by preventing heart attacks and strokes, and the other to help countries address gaps in epidemic preparedness and response. Resolve will also support and work closely with the CDC, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which is also funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Gates Foundation.

“Many governments have the intention and the will to improve the health of their citizens, but need help turning that will into action,” Erin Sykes, communications manager of Resolve, told Devex via email. “Resolve brings together fantastic donors, best-in-class expertise and effective partners to make the world healthier and safer.”

Frieden worked closely with Bloomberg Philanthropies founder Michael Bloomberg when he served as commissioner of health for the City of New York when Bloomberg was mayor. They worked together on tobacco control, and he went on to design Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use. Frieden was also instrumental in the creation of the Global Health Security Agenda, and emphasized in a call with reporters on Tuesday the importance of government support to close critical gaps in preparedness.

“Philanthropy can work quickly, can demonstrate the effectiveness of new models, can catalyze change,” he told Devex. “Generous as our donors are, philanthropy will never replace government, or even a significant portion of government spending.”

While Frieden’s work has included controlling the multidrug resistant tuberculosis in New York City — which became a model for tuberculosis control globally — it was his role in the Ebola response that put him on the radar of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which has traditionally emphasized having leaders they trust running the programs they support.

“His leadership in response to several global health crises, including the Ebola epidemic, was critical to preventing the further spread of those diseases,” Dr. Priscilla Chan, pediatrician and co-founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative together with her husband, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, said in a statement. “Under Tom Frieden’s direction, the Resolve initiative will help give countries the tools they need to quickly identify and respond to new health threats. To ensure that millions of people around the world have access to equal opportunity, we need to tackle the threat of epidemics — that’s what Resolve aims to do, and it’s why we’re supporting this effort.”

This new initiative is part of CZI’s investment of $3 billion over the next decade toward goals that include the curing, prevention and management of all disease by the end of the century. And it builds on whispers that CZI and Gates might do more to collaborate. Chan and Zuckerberg have called Bill and Melinda Gates their mentors, and CZI has said it is learning from the example of the Gates Foundation.

CZI has partnered with Gates on their shared interest in personalized learning. And Chan and Zuckerberg, together with Bloomberg, have signed the Giving Pledge launched by Bill and Melinda Gates. But this represents the first time the three have partnered, and in an area that is not typically a focus of the largest foundation in the world.

“While our foundation typically focuses on infectious diseases because they disproportionately affect the world’s poorest, we are increasingly concerned about the growing rate of cardiovascular disease in low- and middle-income countries,” Bill Gates said, in a statement, of the partnership. “That’s why we are joining forces with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Bloomberg Philanthropies to support the work of Dr. Frieden and his team to tackle these twin threats to public health.”

Frieden called it “a unique privilege” to have the opportunity to work with donors with “remarkable experience, skills and reach.”

Less than 1 percent of the $35 billion spent each year on global health assistance is directed at cardiovascular disease prevention, and the three areas Resolve identified as strategic investments that could deliver rapid progress are blood pressure control, sodium reduction and the elimination of artificial trans fats. The initiative will also work with governments in low- and middle-income countries to move from Joint External Evaluation assessments — accountability frameworks that identify public health gaps — to funded, implemented and sustained programs. Resolve will focus on implementing and strengthening disease tracking systems, supporting laboratory networks, developing rapid response teams, and developing and supporting what they call disease detectives, or epidemiologists that can track and investigate diseases and outbreaks.

“We are somewhere between stalled and making slow progress in both of these areas, and what we'd like to do is support partners within country and globally to accelerate progress to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and in particular the noncommunicable disease goals and the public health safety goals,” Frieden told Devex. “We're not trying to reinvent the wheel, but rather make the car go faster.”

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About the author

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    Catherine Cheney

    Catherine Cheney is a Senior Reporter for Devex. She covers the West Coast of the U.S., focusing on the role of technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And she frequently represents Devex as a speaker and moderator. Prior to joining Devex, Catherine earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University, worked as a web producer for POLITICO and reporter for World Politics Review, and helped to launch NationSwell. Catherine has reported from all over the world, and freelanced for outlets including the Atlantic and the Washington Post. She is also the West Coast ambassador for the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit that trains and connects journalists to cover responses to problems.