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CEO Perspective

Emerging From 2020 With Commitment, Innovation and Resilience

A COVID-19 contact tracing team from the Ethiopian Public Health Institute conducted contact tracing at Addis Ketema sub-city. Photo: Tewodros Emiru

2020 was a momentous year for the world. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted lives, communities and institutions worldwide, and public health took center stage. Vital Strategies, with its extensive global network and partnerships, and expertise in strengthening public health systems, was well positioned to support governments in responding to this moment. Driven by the urgency of the pandemic and our mission to protect as many lives as possible, our efforts were grounded in innovation, resilience and renewed commitment. I feel confident that our 2020 legacy is healthier people and communities better prepared for the long road ahead.

When our epidemic prevention experts—working since the 2017 launch of our Resolve to Save Lives initiative to help countries prevent, detect and stop epidemics—alerted us to just how widespread and devastating the new coronavirus could become, Vital Strategies rapidly shifted focus. I’ve never been more proud of our team, who worked tirelessly and with deep compassion throughout the year, adapting their skills and knowledge quickly to the immense and novel task of pandemic response. We played a significant role in direct COVID-19 response in more than 50 countries and dozens of cities. At the same time, it quickly became clear that the collateral deaths from COVID-19, whether from heart failure or drug overdose, had the potential to be as catastrophic as those directly caused by the virus. We rededicated to our core work to make sure essential services and public health systems remained strong, often pivoting to new strategies to promote health in the changing environment. In many areas, this meant supporting critical efforts by partners to provide special focus on the most at-risk populations who were especially threatened by weakened public health protections.

In 2020, COVID-19 also laid bare the gaps in equity across our societies. Systemic injustices leave some people and populations at more risk; The stark disparities in COVID-19 outcomes among people of color and poorer populations, plus the global movement for greater racial justice sparked by the murder of George Floyd, rightly challenged every organization to do more to change the systems that perpetuate inequities. Vital Strategies has joined organizations around the world in renewing our commitment to addressing those disparities in all of our work. This includes ensuring that the voices of those most affected by health crises we work on are at the forefront of designing solutions.

As we begin a new year, we are hopeful. 2020 tested us on many levels, and we rallied. There is much work to be done, and there are brighter days ahead. We are stronger and more committed than ever to helping people around the world live longer, healthier lives around the world.

José Luis Castro, President and CEO

Building Strong Public Health Systems

In 2020, Vital Strategies provided leadership across our program areas. We are more committed than ever before to building stronger public health systems for all.

Here is a look at some of our highlights from the year.

How 2020 Transformed Public Health and Ways We Can Move Forward Stronger

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the largest public health challenge we have faced in over a century. We need to take the time to reflect on what we’ve learned this year and how we can use it to reimagine public health to build back stronger and healthier.

Read our blog.