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Inside the Global Health Gallery

THE TASK FORCE FOR GLOBAL HEALTH
ANNUAL REPORT 2022

From the bubonic plague in 14th century Europe and Asia to the 1918 influenza outbreak to the COVID pandemic, societies have used a variety of tools to protect people from diseases and to heal those who become ill.

The world now stands at a juncture, with the losses and lessons of COVID still fresh and an eye toward a more equitable future. What have we learned? What’s around the corner? What new discoveries will improve lives for future generations? Whether you are 10 or 100, this global health gallery provides some answers and introduces you to people who are leading the way.

We welcome you inside.

WELCOME

Click on the video for a message from our Board Chair and our CEO

Kent Alexander, JD

Board Chair

Patrick O'Carroll, MD, MPH

President & CEO

EXPLORE THE GALLERIES

Click on circle on photo to enter that gallery
In the galleries below you’ll learn about our work to promote effective health policies globally and to advance Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging at The Task Force. You’ll also meet people at The Task Force and with whom we work.
Click or hover on the circles next to the paintings to explore

SUPERLATIVES

Superlative Portraits

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GLOBAL & U.S. FEDERAL POLICY

Providing technical expertise to global policymaking efforts at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) was a priority this year. As a non-State actor in official relations with WHO, and with Special Consultative Status at the UN, The Task Force shared experiences and solutions for pandemic preparedness and response, the public health workforce, and vaccine-preventable diseases. We advocated with partners for the importance of strong and sustained national public health systems, including field epidemiologists and vaccine-delivery programs.

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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion
& Belonging

The Task Force continues to focus on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) initiatives. DEIB activities in FY 22 included clarifying and strengthening processes for career pathways, creating mentorship opportunities, improving hiring and onboarding practices, hosting open forums for staff to share their experiences to foster a culture of belonging, offering DEIB-related trainings to staff to increase awareness and growth, and engaging in reviews of TFGH policies and practices to promote equity.  The Task Force’s Employee Resource Group CODE (Council for Opportunity, Diversity and Equity) contributed to several of these activities. To hear a variety of staff perspectives on what it’s like to work at The Task Force, check out our video series “This is My Story.”

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Where We Work

Hover over the shaded countries on the map below for information about our programs.
To sort the map by programs or sectors, click on the filters to the right, just above the map.

OUR PROGRAMS

The Task Force for Global Health, based in Atlanta and founded nearly 40 years ago to advance health equity, has 17 programs that work with partners in more than 150 countries to eliminate diseases, ensure access to vaccines and essential medicines, and strengthen health systems to protect populations.

Click on the programs to the left to learn more.

  • Task Force for Global Health

  • Brighton Collaboration

  • The Brighton Collaboration  informs safety protocols for vaccine development and seeks to build trust in vaccine safety through rigorous science. 

    Global

    People fully vaccinated for COVID-19, supported by Brighton Collaboration’s work to create guidelines for assessing vaccine safety
    > 0 Billion
  • Children Without Worms

  • Children Without Worms (CWW) aims to eliminate soil-transmitted helminths (STH) as a public health problem by engaging with national deworming programs, strengthening partnerships through the STH Coalition, and providing scientific leadership for evidence-based program improvements.

    3 Countries

    Doses of deworming treatment donated to countries whose STH programs are supported by CWW
    0 Million
    Published articles to inform strategies to control STH
    0
    Countries supported with community surveys to determine STH prevalence
    0
  • Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination

  • Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination works to eliminate viral hepatitis by strengthening the capacity of elimination programs around the world through technical assistance, knowledge generation, and advocacy among partners.

    50 Countries

    Partners to date
    0 +
    From 100+ countries registered for webinars on topics like hepatitis B vaccination for newborns, linking pregnant women to HCV care, scaling up HBV and HCV testing programs, and translating hepatitis research into public health practice.
    0 + People
  • COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Program

  • The CoVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Program (CoVIP) helps low- and middle-income countries deploy and evaluate COVID-19 vaccines with the ultimate aim of establishing sustainable systems for adult immunization programs. CoVIP works with country partners throughout all stages of vaccine introduction, providing support through financial grants and direct technical assistance.

    49 Countries

    COVID-19 vaccinations administered in four countries with funding and support from CoVIP
    0 + Million
    Percentage point increase in vaccination coverage in 49 countries, due to collaboration with Ministries of Health and other partners
    0
  • Focus Area for Compassion & Ethics

  • Focus Area for Compassion & Ethics (FACE) works to bring compassion and ethics to the center of global health practice through convening, consultation, education, research, and pioneering its own initiatives. FACE helps us understand and address deeply-rooted and complex challenges in global health.

    Global

    Global health practitioners in 70+ countries joined webinars hosted by FACE and the WHO on compassion in global health.
    0 +
    Public health officials participated in FACE’s self care and resilience programs and workshops.
    0 +
  • Global Funders Consortium (Influenza)

  • The initiative brings together major global organizations involved in universal influenza vaccine research and development to coordinate efforts to accelerate the development of next generation influenza vaccines.

    Global

    Organizations and industry partners collaborating to accelerate influenza vaccines
    0

    More at unifluvac.org

  • Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy

  • Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy works to accelerate progress toward a future with no leprosy — no disease, no disability, and no discrimination or stigma — by advancing research, country-led planning, and advocacy and resource mobilization.

    12 Countries

    Individual members from 80 organizations
    0 +
  • Health Campaign Effectiveness Coalition

  • The first-ever partnership for cross-campaign collaboration, the Health Campaign Effectiveness Coalition brings together country leaders, donors, multilateral organizations and NGOs working on large-scale health campaigns, as well as specialists in health systems, ethics, and health economics to identify, test and promote promising practices and foster opportunities for shared resources.

     

    24 Countries

    1100 individuals from 84 countries engaged in the Coalition
    0
    Implementation research studies conducted in 24 countries
    0
  • International Trachoma Initiative

  • International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) contributes to the ultimate elimination of trachoma by stewarding Pfizer’s donation of Zithromax® to treat and prevent the condition; building and strengthening partnerships to accelerate progress; and developing innovative tools to share data.

    40 Countries

    Treatments shipped since the beginning of the program
    0 + Billion
    People treated for trachoma since the beginning of ITI
    0 Million
    People free from trachoma and no longer requiring Zithromax® (since 1999)
    0 Million
  • Mectizan Donation Program

  • The Mectizan Donation Program manages the donation of Mectizan by Merck & Co., Inc. for the elimination of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis (LF). As the longest-running drug donation program of its kind, MDP ensures that Mectizan and albendazole (donated by GSK) reach communities where LF and river blindness are endemic to eliminate the two diseases from partner countries

    31 Countries

    Treatments approved since the program’s inception
    0 Billion
    People no longer needing treatment for lymphatic filariasis, as countries like Malawi, Togo and Yemen have eliminated the disease
    0 Million
    People no longer needing treatment for river blindness, as countries like Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico have eliminated the disease
    0 Million

    More at mectizan.org.

  • MedSurplus Alliance

  • The mission of MedSurplus Alliance (MSA) is to engage and inspire cross-sector medical product donation partners to advance equitable access to health by providing quality medical products when and where they are needed through standards-based donation programs. MedSurplus Alliance Accredited organizations provide life-saving medical supplies, equipment, and medications to under-resourced healthcare settings.

    80 Countries

    Life-saving medical supplies, equipment, and medications provided to low-income communities provided by MSA through qualified partners.
    $ 0 Million
    Healthcare workers equipped to provide care
    0 +
  • Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center

  • The Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center (NTD-SC) facilitates research on tools and techniques to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases . As secretariat of the Coalition for Operational Research on NTDs, the program provides a platform for NTD researchers to identify common needs and share technical advances to maximize impact for countries.

    63 Countries

    Operational research studies on neglected tropical diseases supported by NTD-SC since program began
    0
  • Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction

  • PIVI is a public/private program that works in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ministries of health, corporate partners, and others to create sustainable seasonal influenza vaccination programs in low- and middle-income countries. PIVI’s work builds the immunization infrastructure critical for reaching people of all ages impacted by future influenza pandemics and other respiratory disease epidemics.

    16 Countries

    Doses of influenza vaccine purchased by 11 countries with whom PIVI works
    1.3 Million
    Seasonal influenza vaccinations provided to 11 countries
    0

    More at pivipartners.org.

  • Public Health Informatics Institute

  • Public Health Informatics Institute works as an innovative leader in the field of public health informatics. It leverages the best practices of informatics to help domestic public health and global health organizations effectively use data and information to improve public health.

    8 Countries

    US cities, counties and states trained by PHII on data systems and processes to improve disease surveillance
    0 +
    Countries where PHII and partners identified and analyzed causes of childhood death to inform programs and policies that reduce preventable death
    0

    More at phii.org.

  • Polio Eradication Center

  • The Center contributes to the polio eradication efforts by supporting the development of antiviral agents, strengthening global polio surveillance and vaccination efforts, helping countries sustain current and post-eradication immunization programs, and supporting containment certification activities in the United States.
     

    26 Countries

    Children received polio vaccinations in 15 countries in Africa and Asia
    0 Million
  • TEPHINET

  • TEPHINET strengthens public health systems in more than 100 countries by building, supporting, and connecting Field Epidemiology Training Programs to enhance epidemiological capabilities and public health interventions.

    179 Countries & Territories

    Outbreaks or acute health events investigated
    0 +
    Disease surveillance systems evaluated, developed or implemented
    0
  • Voices for Vaccines

  • Voices for Vaccines is a family-led organization that serves as a catalyst to spark positive conversations about vaccines and the diseases they prevent by supporting communities, building networks, and developing fact-based content that enables parents to make healthy, informed decisions about vaccination for their families and their communities.

    1 Country

    Families, advocates and public health workers reached
    0
    Volunteers trained by 12 immunization coalitions
    0 Volunteers

The Brighton Collaboration  informs safety protocols for vaccine development and seeks to build trust in vaccine safety through rigorous science. 

Global

People fully vaccinated for COVID-19, supported by Brighton Collaboration’s work to create guidelines for assessing vaccine safety
> 0 Billion

Children Without Worms (CWW) aims to eliminate soil-transmitted helminths (STH) as a public health problem by engaging with national deworming programs, strengthening partnerships through the STH Coalition, and providing scientific leadership for evidence-based program improvements.

3 Countries

Doses of deworming treatment donated to countries whose STH programs are supported by CWW
0 Million
Published articles to inform strategies to control STH
0
Countries supported with community surveys to determine STH prevalence
0

Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination works to eliminate viral hepatitis by strengthening the capacity of elimination programs around the world through technical assistance, knowledge generation, and advocacy among partners.

50 Countries

Partners to date
0 +
From 100+ countries registered for webinars on topics like hepatitis B vaccination for newborns, linking pregnant women to HCV care, scaling up HBV and HCV testing programs, and translating hepatitis research into public health practice.
0 + People

The CoVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Program (CoVIP) helps low- and middle-income countries deploy and evaluate COVID-19 vaccines with the ultimate aim of establishing sustainable systems for adult immunization programs. CoVIP works with country partners throughout all stages of vaccine introduction, providing support through financial grants and direct technical assistance.

49 Countries

COVID-19 vaccinations administered in four countries with funding and support from CoVIP
0 + Million
Percentage point increase in vaccination coverage in 49 countries, due to collaboration with Ministries of Health and other partners
0

Focus Area for Compassion & Ethics (FACE) works to bring compassion and ethics to the center of global health practice through convening, consultation, education, research, and pioneering its own initiatives. FACE helps us understand and address deeply-rooted and complex challenges in global health.

Global

Global health practitioners in 70+ countries joined webinars hosted by FACE and the WHO on compassion in global health.
0 +
Public health officials participated in FACE’s self care and resilience programs and workshops.
0 +

The initiative brings together major global organizations involved in universal influenza vaccine research and development to coordinate efforts to accelerate the development of next generation influenza vaccines.

Global

Organizations and industry partners collaborating to accelerate influenza vaccines
0

More at unifluvac.org

Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy works to accelerate progress toward a future with no leprosy — no disease, no disability, and no discrimination or stigma — by advancing research, country-led planning, and advocacy and resource mobilization.

12 Countries

Individual members from 80 organizations
0 +

The first-ever partnership for cross-campaign collaboration, the Health Campaign Effectiveness Coalition brings together country leaders, donors, multilateral organizations and NGOs working on large-scale health campaigns, as well as specialists in health systems, ethics, and health economics to identify, test and promote promising practices and foster opportunities for shared resources.

 

24 Countries

1100 individuals from 84 countries engaged in the Coalition
0
Implementation research studies conducted in 24 countries
0

International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) contributes to the ultimate elimination of trachoma by stewarding Pfizer’s donation of Zithromax® to treat and prevent the condition; building and strengthening partnerships to accelerate progress; and developing innovative tools to share data.

40 Countries

Treatments shipped since the beginning of the program
0 + Billion
People treated for trachoma since the beginning of ITI
0 Million
People free from trachoma and no longer requiring Zithromax® (since 1999)
0 Million

The Mectizan Donation Program manages the donation of Mectizan by Merck & Co., Inc. for the elimination of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis (LF). As the longest-running drug donation program of its kind, MDP ensures that Mectizan and albendazole (donated by GSK) reach communities where LF and river blindness are endemic to eliminate the two diseases from partner countries

31 Countries

Treatments approved since the program’s inception
0 Billion
People no longer needing treatment for lymphatic filariasis, as countries like Malawi, Togo and Yemen have eliminated the disease
0 Million
People no longer needing treatment for river blindness, as countries like Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico have eliminated the disease
0 Million

More at mectizan.org.

The mission of MedSurplus Alliance (MSA) is to engage and inspire cross-sector medical product donation partners to advance equitable access to health by providing quality medical products when and where they are needed through standards-based donation programs. MedSurplus Alliance Accredited organizations provide life-saving medical supplies, equipment, and medications to under-resourced healthcare settings.

80 Countries

Life-saving medical supplies, equipment, and medications provided to low-income communities provided by MSA through qualified partners.
$ 0 Million
Healthcare workers equipped to provide care
0 +

The Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center (NTD-SC) facilitates research on tools and techniques to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases . As secretariat of the Coalition for Operational Research on NTDs, the program provides a platform for NTD researchers to identify common needs and share technical advances to maximize impact for countries.

63 Countries

Operational research studies on neglected tropical diseases supported by NTD-SC since program began
0

PIVI is a public/private program that works in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ministries of health, corporate partners, and others to create sustainable seasonal influenza vaccination programs in low- and middle-income countries. PIVI’s work builds the immunization infrastructure critical for reaching people of all ages impacted by future influenza pandemics and other respiratory disease epidemics.

16 Countries

Doses of influenza vaccine purchased by 11 countries with whom PIVI works
1.3 Million
Seasonal influenza vaccinations provided to 11 countries
0

More at pivipartners.org.

Public Health Informatics Institute works as an innovative leader in the field of public health informatics. It leverages the best practices of informatics to help domestic public health and global health organizations effectively use data and information to improve public health.

8 Countries

US cities, counties and states trained by PHII on data systems and processes to improve disease surveillance
0 +
Countries where PHII and partners identified and analyzed causes of childhood death to inform programs and policies that reduce preventable death
0

More at phii.org.

The Center contributes to the polio eradication efforts by supporting the development of antiviral agents, strengthening global polio surveillance and vaccination efforts, helping countries sustain current and post-eradication immunization programs, and supporting containment certification activities in the United States.
 

26 Countries

Children received polio vaccinations in 15 countries in Africa and Asia
0 Million

TEPHINET strengthens public health systems in more than 100 countries by building, supporting, and connecting Field Epidemiology Training Programs to enhance epidemiological capabilities and public health interventions.

179 Countries & Territories

Outbreaks or acute health events investigated
0 +
Disease surveillance systems evaluated, developed or implemented
0

Voices for Vaccines is a family-led organization that serves as a catalyst to spark positive conversations about vaccines and the diseases they prevent by supporting communities, building networks, and developing fact-based content that enables parents to make healthy, informed decisions about vaccination for their families and their communities.

1 Country

Families, advocates and public health workers reached
0
Volunteers trained by 12 immunization coalitions
0 Volunteers

Leadership

EXECUTIVE TEAM

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Financials

To see detailed financial information, click on the arrows below the graphs.

Donors & Partners

The Task Force for Global Health is grateful for the generosity of our funding partners and donors. The following individuals, foundations, corporations, government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations contributed $1,000 or more in FY22 (September 2021 to August 2022).

Abbott Laboratories
Abbvie
ASCENSION
Asian Liver Center/Stanford University
AstraZeneca
Bayer US LLC
Becton Dickinson
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Brighton Foundation
Bruyere Research Institute
Cadila Health Care
CDC Foundation
Center for Compassionate Leadership
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Central Lab Services
Christian Blind Mission
ClinicalMind
Common Practice
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
de Beaumont Foundation
Department of International Development (UK)
Eagle Medical Services
Eisai Co.
Emory University
Facebook
Georgia Department of Public Health
Gilead Sciences
GlaxoSmithKline

Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach
Immunize.org
International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations
International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations
John Martin Foundation
Johnson & Johnson
Kay Family Foundation
Labcorp
Lever for Change
MacArthur Foundation
Medshare International
Meiners Partners
Merck & Co Inc
Merck KGaA
Merck Sharp & Dohme
Ministry of Health-National Public Health Institute
National Association of Chronic Diseases
National Health Institute
Novartis Foundation
PayPal Giving Fund
Pfizer Inc.
Pharco Pharmaceutica
PSL Group
ROCHE Molecular System
Sanofi Espoir
Sanofi Pasteur
Sasakawa Health Foundation

Seqirus
Siemens Healthcare
Templeton World
The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE)
The Fetzer Institute
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) 
U.S. Department of State
University of Nebraska Medical Center
US Agency for International Development (USAID)
VBI Vaccines
Wellcome Trust Limited
World Health Organization (WHO)

Individuals

Kent and Diane Alexander
Erin Atkinson
Jack and Anna Cantlin
Brennan and Cianciolo Family Fund
Debby and Tim Coleman
Stephen Collins
Walter M. Deriso
Zachary Drummond
Reza Ektefaie
Joseph and Leighton Feczko Family Fund

Kimberly Hagen
James Jackson
Andrew Johnston
Deborah Kilpatrick
Douglas Krapf
Timothy and Janice Long Charitable Fund
James Mahoney
Geeta Manek
Quince Marcum
Charles and Marcy McTier
Colin Nance
William Nichols
James Niewenhuis
William Parkes
Manan Patel
Diane Peterson
Arjun Reddy
Dave Ross
Raymond Schinazi
Shannon Selvius
Sharon M. Tsai
William J. Wolfe
Rachel Yee
Craig Zager
Donald Zielke

Credit

This annual report was designed by Priya Palani and written by Lynn Heinisch, Andi Kezh, India Maul and Sumon Ray, with project management support from Cee Williams and technical support from New Tricks Web Design.

Introduction
Video
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Where We Work
Programs
Leadership
Financials
Gift Shop
Donors
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HISTORY REPEATING OR TEACHING?

Sometimes we forget how much progress the world has made. In the last 70 years, global life expectancy jumped from roughly 45 years to 73. The percentage of children dying before they turned five dropped from 19 to 4 percent between 1960 and 2017. Many factors contributed to this success, including scientific and medical breakthroughs, dedicated health workers, and families and communities joining forces so all people could access services. From parents to teachers to religious and civic leaders to doctors and community health workers, there are countless unsung heroes who believe that everyone has the right to health and the right to achieve their full potential.

For example, in 1980, after a targeted campaign led by Task Force co-founder Dr. Bill Foege, smallpox was eradicated – the only infectious human disease to date. Then from 1984-1990, Task Force partners collaborated to raise global childhood immunization rates from 20 to 80 percent, preventing an estimated three million child deaths every year. Likewise, in the 1950s, polio paralyzed or killed more than half a million people every year. After a global push to ensure that all people could be vaccinated, those numbers dropped 99 percent. By 2021, just 15,000 people contracted polio, primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan where conflict and other challenges have made it difficult to reach people.

Epidemiologist checking for polio vaccine “finger marking” indicator on the young daughter of a Pakistani fishing family. Photo credit: Dr. Aslam Pervaiz

That’s the good news. But pandemic-related disruptions, along with fears and uncertainty, have rolled back some of this progress. The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF reported in July 2022 that 25 million children missed their vaccinations in 2021, nearly 6 million more than just two years earlier and the highest number of children unprotected since 2009. UNICEF called this a “red alert for child health” whose consequences would be measured in lives.

Some of this was due to overwhelmed health systems, but it also resulted from distrust of medical treatment, poor communication, and stigma and misinformation about diseases. These are long-standing public health challenges that have been around for centuries but have been compounded in this era of social media, which can quickly spread information, both accurate and false.

Several Task Force programs are working on this issue. This year, Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization, worked with 12 immunization coalitions to provide training and answer vaccine questions, reaching families, advocates and public health workers. The Polio Eradication Center has worked with partners in Africa and Asia to help vaccinate 46 million children in 15 countries since 2019.

Persons affected by leprosy in Mozambique contributed to the review of the national program. Photo credit: Ricardo Franco

The Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy partnered with 11 national programs to develop country-led customized strategies that address local needs and priorities to end leprosy. And the Health Campaign Effectiveness Program funded 18 locally-based institutions to conduct research on health campaigns targeting five diseases to inform effective and equitable use of campaigns and routine health services.

With our partners in more than 150 countries, The Task Force is working to restore and build on the hard-won gains of the last five decades so that all people, today and tomorrow, have the opportunity for a long and healthy life.

Top photo credit: Brent Stirton/Getty Images for the International Trachoma Initiative

A GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE:
Next Generation Tools & Breakthroughs

Three scientists won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovery of the hepatitis C virus, a finding that has paved the way to eliminate the blood-borne disease that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer. “We truly are at a miraculous moment that rarely occurs in the history of medicine and public health, when you have large scientific breakthroughs that create opportunities to eliminate disease,” said Dr. John Ward, Director of The Task Force’s Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination. 

Representatives from Egypt and Ghana at a United Nations General Assembly side-event calling for a UN Group of Friends to eliminate hepatitis. Photo Credit: Sarah Merians

Following their discovery, the Nobel scientists endorsed the Coalition’s idea of forming a “U.N. Group of Friends” with more than 20 countries to advance efforts to achieve the World Health Organization’s (WHO) goal of reducing new viral hepatitis infections by 90% by 2030. 

Community drug distributor hands out medicine to prevent and treat trachoma. Photo credit: Birgit Bolton for the International Trachoma Initiative

 

Other diseases are targeted for elimination milestones by 2030, with several Task Force programs playing a key role. Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) such as blinding trachoma, onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) have decreased significantly in recent decades. This is due largely to treatment with donated medicines that Task Force programs and our many partners deliver to the communities that need them. The International Trachoma Initiative, for example, has supported the treatment of 300 million people to prevent blinding trachoma. And the Mectizan Donation Program has helped countries reach 400 million people annually to protect them from onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis.

Infections due to intestinal worms (soil-transmitted helminths) have also dropped significantly. With this decline, countries are beginning to use geostatistical predictive modeling to better allocate donated medicines to those who remain most at risk. The Task Force’s Children Without Worms program is supporting this work in countries like Bangladesh and Uganda.  The success of these NTD programs stems from close partnerships with health leaders, donors, governments, NGO allies and communities to build strong health systems.

Effective diagnostics are essential for eliminating diseases and the NTD community is pursuing breakthroughs with these tools that could be piloted as early as 2023. The Task Force’s Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center is helping inform WHO guidance on how to identify and test people who are both the hardest-to-reach and most-at-risk for NTDs and, with support from USAID, is informing development of more sensitive tests to serve those communities.

A group of Cameroonians gather to receive treatment for river blindness. Photo credit: William Nsai for Mectizan Donation Program

Just as this might be the decade that the so-called “neglected” diseases finally get the attention and investment needed to end them, it also promises to be a time of continued advancement in vaccines. The world witnessed an unprecedented leap in vaccine development during the last three years. 

Historically, it took 10 or more years to develop a vaccine. Given the urgency (and the ability to use previously researched vaccine technology), the COVID vaccine was developed in less than one year. The Task Force’s Brighton Collaboration, which provides harmonized vaccine safety guidelines for developers, is exploring the feasibility of further reducing development time for future vaccines to just three months, while still meeting the highest standards of vaccine safety.

“Medical technology changes over time, so we constantly need to review, update and evaluate case definitions for side effects that may result from vaccines, in order to improve vaccines so that the risks are mitigated,” said Dr. Robert Chen, Director of the Brighton Collaboration, the world’s only program dedicated solely to advancing the science of vaccine safety.

Another outcome of the pandemic is that several combined COVID/Influenza vaccines are in development and could be available in the next few years. Two Task Force programs have been helping more than 50 low- and middle-income countries with vaccination efforts (the Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction and the COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Program) and will support countries’ policies and programs to use these future combination vaccines.

In all these cases, it’s not only the scientific know-how but the collaboration with partners and understanding of community needs that enable real breakthroughs with lasting effects.

Top photo credit: Chelsea Toledo/The Task Force for Global Health for NTD-SC
Gallery photo credit: Paul Emerson for The Task Force for Global Health for the International Trachoma Initiative

PANDEMIC LESSONS &
WHERE WE GO FROM HERE

The world will never know exactly how many people died because of the pandemic. Current estimates range from nearly 7 million to more than 15 million, numbers so staggering they’re hard to comprehend. The losses include not only deaths of beloved family and friends but impacts on education, livelihoods, and mental, physical and social health that will only be understood years from now.

With all this loss came hard-earned lessons for both the general public and the public health community. People in all parts of the globe learned how interconnected we are. An infectious disease anywhere is a threat everywhere in our collective “home.” This knowledge provides an opportunity to develop greater collaboration across borders and with teams working on human health, animal health and environmental health.

The Task Force’s program for field epidemiologists in more than 100 countries, TEPHINET (Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network), saw this with its experts working in communities to trace, respond to and prevent outbreaks. In Mozambique, for example, a Brazilian-trained epidemiologist used her experience and the countries’ shared Portuguese language to train the pandemic response team there.

As part of the One Health initiative, a community member collects samples from animals and water following disease outbreak investigation. Photo Credit: Vulstan Shedura

Another TEPHINET epidemiologist led a successful response to a rabies outbreak in a camp for displaced people in northern Mozambique, which drew upon veterinary skills, the country’s Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“This whole operation is a practice in One Health,” said Tatenda Mutenga, Deputy Head of Office for FAO in Pemba, Mozambique. “This is the first time that these sectors have really come together on a collaborative intervention towards the control of rabies, and it is scalable.” While no country was fully prepared for the pandemic, the world saw a great divide between those whose health systems were equipped to respond and those whose systems weren’t. Countries with the practice of providing annual flu vaccines to adults were able to draw upon existing supply chains, trained health workers and communications strategies to deliver COVID vaccines.

A health worker takes influenza vaccines to remote herder communities. Photo credit: Enkhbaatar Gonchugluvsan for PIVI

Mongolia, for example, tapped its strong influenza vaccination program, which was built in collaboration with The Task Force’s Partnership in Influenza Vaccine Introduction (PIVI), to quickly vaccinate its people. The PIVI program served as a model for The Task Force’s COVID Vaccine Introduction Program (CoVIP) which currently supports more than 50 low- and middle-income countries deploy and evaluate COVID vaccines.

Other Task Force programs are helping countries strengthen health systems to prevent and respond to future outbreaks. For example, the Public Health Informatics Institute (PHII) is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help health departments improve their data systems.

The pandemic not only exposed gaps and inequities, but also shifted certain long-standing practices, for example, the approach to donated medical equipment and supplies. The Task Force’s MedSurplus Alliance members expanded their international donation programs to include providing medical products to clinical settings in the United States. At the same time, due to social distancing and workforce changes from the pandemic, there were fewer volunteers and staff to support sorting, packing and shipping supplies.

Trachoma expert Esmael Habtamu shares a laugh with community elder. Compassion is essential for delivering quality health services. Photo credit: Brent Stirton/Getty Images for the International Trachoma Initiative

Global health organizations like The Task Force see many opportunities to apply the lessons of the pandemic. Our Focus Area for Compassion and Ethics (FACE) is working with health care providers to promote compassion in our health care systems, reaching more than 1,000 workers with these services in the last year. This will benefit both patients and health care workers, reduce burnout, and increase resilience for those in the profession.

Given the terrible toll of the pandemic, we have not only the opportunity but a responsibility to honor the people we’ve lost by learning from this experience to protect future generations.

Top photo credit: Leeshia Crayton for the International Trachoma Initiative

The public health field is full of heroes, people who believe that everyone has the right to health and dignity. They not only envision such a world but commit their time and expertise to create it. As a tribute to this global cadre, we honor some of them here with superlatives, for all those who are “Most likely to” save and improve lives so that all people can achieve their full potential.

Most Likely to Bring Together All-Stars to Save & Improve Lives

Dr. Bill Foege

Even before he co-founded The Task Force in 1984, Dr. Foege had accomplished more than most people do in a lifetime. The CDC Director (1977-1983) developed the strategy that eradicated smallpox (by 1980). In its first six years, The Task Force partnership increased the percentage of children receiving at least one vaccine from 20% to 80%, preventing an estimated three million child deaths every year. Dr. Foege served as CEO until 2000.

Public health work is like a love letter to people who have not been born yet, saying ‘We already love you.’

Most likely to eliminate river blindness

Dr. Yao Sodahlon

Dr. Sodahlon was born in a Togolese village plagued with onchocerciasis (also known as river blindness), a disease spread by black flies carrying parasites, which can lead to blindness. While in high school he was diagnosed with river blindness, treated and cured. Years later, after finishing his medical studies, Dr. Sodahlon led various disease-control programs for the Togolese Ministry of Health before joining the Mectizan Donation Program (MDP), which offers treatments to more than 400 million people annually to protect them from onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis, partnering with 55 countries to eliminate these diseases.

MDP will leave behind a legacy thanks to Merck’s introduction 35 years ago of “pharmaco-philanthropy,” which mobilized public-private partnerships to fight Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Most likely to inspire those fighting leprosy

Lucrecia Vásquez Acevedo

When Ms. Vásquez Acevedo and her adult son were diagnosed with Hansen’s disease (commonly known as leprosy) they had to grapple with fear and shame and 12 months of treatment, which was successful. Little did she know she would one day work nonstop to support others in the same situation. She now serves as the president of Felehansen, an organization of persons affected by Hansen’s disease in Colombia, working to end discriminatory laws and strengthen the Hansen’s disease community, and to showcase what affected people can do for their communities.

I want people to know about the resilience of persons affected by Hansen’s disease. Today I carry a light of hope without fear or stigma. I know I must continue forward for people who are waiting for a helping hand. Today I can say that leprosy should be a thing of the past. I continue fighting to see that it is eliminated.

Most likely to overcome barriers to create resilient health systems

Mona Naji Al Ahdab

Mona Naji Al Ahdab had long worked as a midwife in Yemen, a country where nearly 18 million people lacked access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene services in late 2022. She then joined a cohort to be trained through the Public Health Empowerment Program, known as Tamkeen, where she learned about disease surveillance, outbreak investigation, data analysis and interpretation. During the training, she went into labor and later delivered a son. She named him Tamkeen and went on to work as a surveillance officer, contributing to many outbreak investigations and immunization campaigns. For her contributions, the Yemen Field Epidemiology Training Program honored her as a model mother and a woman in the workforce.

Realizing my dream to work in public health and becoming a surveillance officer was not easy. My community was resistant to the idea of having me as a public health worker and circulated various rumors. But I earned their respect and built trust-based relationships. Working through those hardships and gaining their trust and respect put me in a unique position to have open conversations. That access to knowledge and information makes people like me essential to building strong and resilient health systems.

Most likely to serve and champion those affected by hepatitis

Prof. Mohammad Ali

Surgeon Mohammad Ali performed the first successful liver transplant in Bangladesh in June 2010. Years earlier, he’d founded the National Liver Foundation of Bangladesh to prevent, treat and conduct research on liver disease. In 2022, he supported the Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination to develop a National Hepatitis Elimination Profile for the country. His 30+ years of commitment stems from a passion to serve underserved communities and find, test, and treat persons living with viral hepatitis, including Rohingya refugees.

There was no other organization working for control of hepatitis in Bangladesh. I went to the rural areas and asked a lot of people what they know about hepatitis. But they did not know anything. They were silently suffering and dying. This gloomy experience inspired me to create a program to reach the common people at the grassroots level.

Most likely to Least Likely to Get Measles

Heather Simpson

Before she was a vaccine advocate Heather Simpson was a vocal critic of them, even posting a Halloween social media picture dressed as measles and claiming the disease wasn’t scary. In early 2020, a series of events, including the start of the pandemic, changed her perspective. Today she and another former anti-vax mom produce a podcast and website called “Back To The Vax” to inform and support others with “a guide to inoculate yourself against anti-vax propaganda.”

Ultimately, what finally changed my mind was having people reach out, listen to my fears, and talk to me. When friends showed they cared more about me than about changing my mind, things started seeming less scary and making more sense. I used to think people promoting vaccines were doing it for the money, and now that I’m in the scientific community, I realize that it’s not the money. It’s 100% the passion that everyone has for this topic that keeps myself and those around me going, even when we face adversity from the anti-vax side.