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. Eradicating this disease inspired other ambitious goals. Since then global health partnerships:

  • Reduced childhood mortality by 60 percent (1990-2021)
  • Reduced polio by 99 percent (1988-2021)
  • Helped 50 countries eliminate at least one neglected tropical disease (2010-2023)

The Task Force for Global Health is honored to contribute to this work. Scroll down for highlights from our 40 years.

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 the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1977-1983). He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 for his lifetime of contributions.

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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