Q: What has The Task Force accomplished since its founding in 1984?
A: In our early years, we worked with our partners to raise childhood immunization rates in developing countries from roughly 20 percent to 80 percent. We have helped reduce the threat of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in developing countries by increasing access to medicines. Last year, we helped 156 countries switch polio vaccines over a two-week period, an important step to eradicating polio. Today, we are a major partner on global programs to eliminate three neglected tropical diseases by 2025 – trachoma, river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, also called elephantiasis because it causes limbs and genitals to swell.
Q: How are you connected to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The Carter Center?
A: We partner closely with The Carter Center on both our trachoma and river blindness elimination programs. We also work in partnership with CDC on immunizations, disease surveillance and the training of field epidemiologists who help recognize and respond to disease outbreaks.
Q: Name some of the biggest public health challenges today.
A: The biggest challenge in the U.S. are chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Access to affordable insurance and medicines are major issues for developing countries. Climate change is another growing public health issue. There is no doubt that this is contributing to the spread of diseases like Zika.
Q: Why don’t more people know of The Task Force?
A: Our founder, Dr. Bill Foege, said, "If you want to build partnerships and coalitions, you have to shine the light on your partners and not on yourself." Winning the Hilton Humanitarian Prize has upped our visibility and led us to realize our obligation to bring our expertise to help address local health problems.
Q: How so?
A: We plan to bring our global health expertise home to help address factors that influence people's health locally – not just access to doctors but other factors such as economic status, employment, transportation, the well-being of mothers and children, the food we eat. We help mobilize entire countries on other continents to eliminate diseases. We believe that we have much to offer to help address health issues here at home.
For more on The Task Force for Global Health: www.taskforce.org.