Just days after Mike Bloomberg launched a program to help American mayors improve their coronavirus response, Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced additional actions and funding to combat the pandemic on a global scale. The new $40 million global initiative will support immediate action to prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19 in vulnerable low- and middle-income countries. Bloomberg Philanthropies will partner with the global health organization Vital Strategies on global response efforts, along with the World Health Organization (WHO), to support lower income countries and cities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also announced today, the first virtual convening of The Coronavirus Local Response Initiative will take place on Thursday, March 19 at 1pm ET. More than 180 cities will join experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative to receive the most up-to-date information on the virus and crisis coaching to manage the public health pandemic. Mike Bloomberg will address the participating city leaders and underscore that their rapid actions over the coming weeks could well set the response model for cities around the world. The Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative will be an ongoing series of virtual convenings that will provide city leaders with technical assistance and coaching, and the chance to share emerging practices with other mayors on the frontlines of the public health crisis.
Bloomberg is building on his years as a philanthropist who has invested more than $2.5 billion in public health initiatives globally, and on his experience leading public health crises as mayor of New York City, including launching a pandemic influenza plan for the city, and leading the city through the swine flu outbreak in 2009 and outbreaks of West Nile virus in 2012.
“Millions of lives depend on getting the coronavirus response right – and so does the economic and social health of communities around the world. We need to slow transmission of the virus and minimize the impact of the outbreak in all countries,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, Bloomberg Philanthropies Founder and three-term mayor of New York City. “As we launch the Coronavirus Local Response Initiative this week here in the U.S., we also are creating a new effort to prevent its spread globally, particularly in Africa. I know from my experience as mayor of New York City that giving public health professionals the tools to protect the public is vital to saving lives – and to help mitigate the kind of economic and social damage that could make this crisis even more debilitating for families and communities.”
Bloomberg Philanthropies will partner with Dr. Tom Frieden, president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of global health organization Vital Strategies, along with the World Health Organization (WHO), to help lower-income countries and cities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Resolve to Save Lives works with countries to prevent 100 million deaths and to make the world safer from epidemics. Dr. Frieden is also senior fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and former commissioner of the New York City Health Department (during Mayor Bloomberg’s first two terms.)
The $40 million Bloomberg Philanthropies Coronavirus Global Response Initiative will work around the world in low and middle income countries to fund rapid response teams that will be deployed to prevent and detect infection; train frontline healthcare workers in infection prevention and control; develop lab networks to manage and transport specimens to central laboratories for COVID-19 diagnosis; measure acceptance and impact of containment strategies such as school and church closures and cancellation of mass gatherings through rapid mobile phone surveys; provide communications support such as public education campaigns; and provide technical expertise to global and regional health organizations. The Bloomberg Philanthropies Coronavirus Global Response Initiative will complement the recently announced funding from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aimed at accelerating the response to COVID-19 in low- and middle-income countries.
The Coronavirus Global Response Initiative will have a strong focus on African nations but will also extend beyond to support the mayors and city governments around the world that are part of the Partnership for Healthy Cities, founded in 2017 by Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with WHO and Vital Strategies.
The 70-city Partnership for Healthy Cities network focuses on implementing interventions to reduce noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) or injuries arising from traffic crashes. COVID-19 data has shown that many of those most at risk are those already living with major NCDs like heart disease and diabetes, and that smokers may potentially be more likely to develop and die from COVID-19. This new initiative will build upon existing relationships and programs with global city leaders to provide up-to-date information and tools for prevention and mitigation, including lessons from The Coronavirus Local Response Initiative for American mayors.
The WHO declared a COVID-19 pandemic last week, signaling alarming levels of spread and severity, and alarming levels of inaction. As of March 16 there were more than 168,000 cases globally, with 6,610 deaths reported. More than 3,400 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in the United States, with 68 deaths. The situation in WHO’s African Region-160 confirmed cases and 3 deaths have been reported-warrants urgency, a comprehensive strategy and critical resources to prevent infections and save lives.
“An unprecedented global health crisis demands unprecedented global solidarity,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “I appreciate this support from Bloomberg Philanthropies to WHO and the global response effort, which will help to prevent infections and save lives.”
“We have a window of time to partner with Ministries of Health in sub-Saharan Africa to protect their population from a disease that could kill through both infections and disruption of health services,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of the global health organization Vital Strategies. “From Ebola to H1N1, we now know more than ever how to minimize the risk of epidemics, especially in low- and middle-income countries. With Mayor Bloomberg’s support, we can help mitigate the worst effects of coronavirus in Africa.”
“Today’s announcement moves our coronavirus-fighting efforts from a U.S. to a global stage. City and country leaders, whether they are in America or in low- and middle-income countries where we do much of our work, need urgent support to boost preparedness for their people,” said Dr. Kelly Henning, who leads the public health program at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “It is critical that the virus is brought under control as quickly as possible.”
“There is no time to lose,” said José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies. “We applaud Mayor Bloomberg for his Philanthropies’ leadership in taking on this unprecedented public health crisis. With this support, Vital Strategies and its Resolve to Save Lives initiative will do all that it can to bolster countries’ efforts to address the crisis and strengthen health systems.”