Message from José Luis Castro
A New Milestone for Vital Strategies
In 2017, my longtime friend and colleague Dr. Tom Frieden and I discussed an idea for a new global health initiative, “Resolve to Save Lives.” It was a name fit for its ambitious mission: to save more than 100 million lives by preventing heart attacks and strokes and to help countries close life-threatening gaps in epidemic preparedness and response.
Vital Strategies’ operational structure, expertise and global network would serve as a launchpad to help nurture and grow the initiative. Our existing partnerships and trusted expertise in building and leveraging public health intelligence, strategic communication, and strengthening critical public health systems were synergistic with Resolve to Save Lives’ vision. Our infrastructure would help it rapidly scaleup and make a lasting impact in its first five years. Donors and our partners came on board, and in September 2017, we launched Resolve to Save Lives within Vital Strategies, with Tom at its helm.
Four years later it has lived up to its founding ambition, establishing itself as a force to improve cardiovascular health in dozens of countries and a leader in combating and preventing epidemics, highlighted by its extraordinary response to COVID-19.
I am pleased to share a new milestone for Vital Strategies: As the Resolve to Save Lives initiative enters its last year of its first five-year funding cycle, Tom and I have jointly decided that the initiative is ready to become its own nonprofit organization and will become fully independent by June 2022.
This is the evolution of an extraordinary partnership that has far exceeded what Tom and I imagined back in 2017. I am proud Vital Strategies has been an invaluable home for the initiative’s incubation and path to independence. And we will continue to incubate fruitful collaborations and partnerships that make an impact on today’s leading health challenges.
Over the past year, as people’s lives, health systems and economies were upended by COVID-19, Vital Strategies showed incredible agility by pivoting rapidly across our divisions to meet the challenge of addressing this unprecedented pandemic. We championed science and evidence in the face of rumor and misinformation. We supported countries responding to COVID-19, strengthened the response of dozens of cities through our Partnership for Healthy Cities network, issued playbooks and campaigns on best practice control measures, including masking, and issued guidance on protecting people most at risk.
As we look to the future, we will continue to welcome partnerships on issues where we can accelerate impact. While we’ve achieved so much, the fact remains that millions of people continue to die every year from preventable causes, and millions more lack access to the health protections they deserve. Take for instance, the ongoing neglect of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. They account for 71% of the world’s deaths, some 41 million lives each year, yet only attract 2% of overseas development assistance for health.
This is why we will continue to work to address the root causes of preventable illness and death—from unhealthy commodities like tobacco products, hyper-processed foods and sugary drinks, to air pollution and the effects of climate change, road crashes and overdose, to the social and economic inequities related to gender, poverty, differences in health status and access to healthcare, and systemic racism that undermine health around the world.
Now more than ever, the world has a greater awareness of the importance of public health-the human and economic cost of both infectious diseases and noncommunicable disease. And in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for strong public health systems is clearer than ever.
We know that good health doesn’t just happen—it is shaped by the social, economic, and physical environments in which we live. At Vital Strategies, we remain committed to working with our partners across the globe to improve the health of our planet and her people.
Thank you for your interest in our work and for your commitment to improving public health.
José Luis Castro
President and CEO