Four decades ago a remarkable achievement set in motion an event that changed millions of lives forever.
That progress continues today.

In 1980, the world was declared free of smallpox. That inspired other ambitious goals and partnerships that have:

  • Reduced childhood mortality by 60 percent 
  • Helped 50 countries eliminate at least one neglected tropical disease 
  • Reduced polio by 99 percent
The Task Force for Global Health, founded in 1984, is honored to contribute to this work.
As we celebrate 40 years of impact, we share highlights below.
1980: Smallpox eradicated. CDC Director Dr. Bill Foege played a key role.

1984: On March 14, five sponsoring agencies – the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the Rockefeller Foundation – launch The Task Force for Child Survival, with Dr. Foege at the helm, to accelerate the pace of global childhood immunizations.

1987: Launch of Mectizan Donation Program (MDP), with Merck & Co, Inc., to treat and prevent river blindness (onchocerciasis)

1988: World Health Assembly launches Global Polio Eradication Initiative
1990: Percentage of children receiving at least one vaccine increased to 80% (from 20% at Task Force founding in 1984)

1991: Task Force becomes The Task Force for Child Survival and Development

1992: Launch of PHII, Public Health Informatics Institute (then called All Kids Count), helping partners use data to advance health outcomes

1994: First Task Force program on polio
2006: Launch of Children Without Worms (CWW), with Johnson & Johnson (and later GSK), to reduce infections from intestinal worms

2006: Neglected Tropical Diseases research program, later known as NTD-Support Center, joins Task Force

2008: TEPHINET (Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network), connecting epidemiologists in 100+ countries, joins Task Force

2009: Start partnership with Pfizer on International Trachoma Initiative (ITI)
2009: New name – The Task Force for Global Health

2011: Center for Vaccine Equity established

2013: Start of Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction (PIVI, later Partnership for International Vaccine Initiatives)

2015: Task Force wins $2 million Hilton Prize, world’s largest humanitarian award

2018: MedSurplus Alliance, for medical donations, and Focus Area for Compassion and Ethics (FACE) join Task Force

2019: New programs – Center for Global Hepatitis Elimination; Brighton Collaboration (to advance vaccine safety); Voices for Vaccines (family peer outreach); Health Campaign Effectiveness Coalition

2019: WHO grants non-State actor status to Task Force
2020-2023: During the COVID pandemic Task Force experts inform safety guidelines for vaccine development; help nearly 40 countries deliver vaccines; equip epidemiologists in 100+ countries for disease surveillance and response; distribute essential protection; and more.

2023: SONAR program to strengthen early warning disease surveillance systems in high-priority countries in Africa and Asia

2024: Launch of William H. Foege Collaboration Center at Task Force headquarters in Decatur, Georgia (neighboring Atlanta), for partners to collaborate on complex global health challenges

As The Task Force marks our 40th anniversary, we honor all those we serve and our partners in the 150+ countries where we work.

“Public health might be the greatest measure of kindness … the greatest measure of how to treat each other.”
– Dr. William H. Foege, Task Force Co-founder, former CDC Director, and architect of smallpox eradication
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Our Founder

Dr. William H. Foege, co-founder of The Task Force for Global Health, is best known for orchestrating the successful strategy to eradicate smallpox (achieved in 1980) and serving as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1977-1983). He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

In March 1984, a group of 34 global health experts met to discuss a critical challenge: how to reduce the number of children contracting and dying of preventable diseases like measles, polio, and diphtheria. With five sponsoring agencies – the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the Rockefeller Foundation – participants launched The Task Force for Child Survival, with Dr. Foege at the helm. He established The Task Force as an affiliate of Emory University and brought on two co-founders, former CDC colleagues Bill Watson and Carol Walters.

Within just six years, Task Force partners had quadrupled the share of children worldwide who had received at least one vaccination to 80 percent. 

The Task Force’s success drew the attention of others with bold goals, leading to a wide range of partnerships to eliminate diseases, ensure access to vaccines, and build strong health systems around the world. Dr. Foege oversaw the growth of The Task Force for 16 years, before retiring in 2000. In 2009, the organization was renamed The Task Force for Global Health.

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