Dr. Tom Frieden, former President Barack Obama's director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will preside over a global health initiative that will include efforts to lower sodium and ban trans fat from food as a way to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease.
The initiative, called Resolve, is backed by $225 million in funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and will be partnering with the CDC, the World Health Organization and the World Bank. The offices will be at Vital Strategies, a global public health non-profit based in New York.
The organization's goal is to save 100 million lives by going after certain ingredients in foods that contribute to heart disease, responsible for third of deaths worldwide. The second part of its mission is to help low- and middle-income countries prepare for pandemics through training and supporting epidemiologists and setting up teams that will investigate and stop outbreaks.
Frieden is aiming to tackle these different areas because they both represent "tipping points," he told Stat News.
"In the next five years, it will become clear whether the world has continued to make slow or no progress in each of these areas, or if this announcement, along with our partners, represents an inflection point where we can see more rapid progress," he said. "And I'm hopeful that we will be able to show rapid progress."
The organization, he said, would urge the use of programs that already work.
"Resolve isn't about new, unprecedented programs," Frieden said in a video about the initiative. "Resolve is about accelerating and scaling up programs we know work but aren't yet available to most people in the world."
Frieden oversaw the CDC for eight years under former President Barack Obama, leading the efforts against tuberculosis, swine flu, Ebola, Zika and the opioid epidemic. Prior to that, he was health commissioner of New York City, where he pushed for restrictions on smoking and banned trans fats from restaurants. The move was resisted by industry groups.
"Trans fats should be out of our food environment," Frieden said in an interview with the New York Times. "It increases bad cholesterol and decreases good cholesterol. Just as we are working to eliminate certain diseases, I think we should try to eliminate this toxic product. It wasn't put in with bad intentions. It prolongs shelf life. But we're more concerned about human life than shelf life."