The Task Force for Global Health receives world's largest humanitarian prize

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | Oct. 6, 2016

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Poul Olson
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Dave Ross (second from left), current Task Force president and CEO; Mark Rosenberg (center), past president and CEO; and Task Force Founder Bill Foege (second from right) were on hand to receive the prize. Also pictured are Sally Osberg (left) Skoll Foundation President and CEO, and Hilton Foundation President and CEO Peter Laugharn (right), who presented the Hilton Prize.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has awarded The Task Force for Global Health (The Task Force), an Atlanta-based international organization dedicated to addressing large-scale health problems primarily affecting people living in extreme poverty, as this year's recipient of the Hilton Humanitarian Prize — the world's largest humanitarian prize.

The Task Force, which is an affiliate of Emory University, has been a pioneer in global health since its founding 32 years ago, and it currently reaches hundreds of millions of people in 151 countries through programs focusing on neglected tropical diseases, vaccines, field epidemiology, public health informatics, and health workforce development. The organization collaborates with partners in diverse sectors, including pharmaceutical companies and health agencies in other countries, on comprehensive disease control and elimination programs. Major funders include governments, foundations, and corporations.

"The Task Force is about compassion, collaboration, and smart solutions," said Hilton Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Peter Laugharn. "The organization and its partners roll up their sleeves and solve massive global health problems, and they do it without fanfare. This is an organization that, with its partners, is on track to help eliminate three diseases in the next decade. That is something we should all celebrate."

The Task Force received $2 million in unrestricted funding and joins 20 other distinguished nonprofit organizations that have received this Prize during the last two decades. The Task Force funds will be used for a capital campaign to purchase a larger headquarters in downtown Decatur.

"We are deeply humbled and honored to receive the 2016 Hilton Humanitarian Prize, and to join the ranks of prestigious organizations that have helped alleviate human suffering," said David, Ross, ScD, President and CEO of The Task Force. "We have long believed collaboration is essential to solving large-scale health problems. No one organization has the resources or expertise to address these issues. It is through our partnerships that we have been able to have an extraordinary collective impact."

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"2016 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize Recipient: The Task Force for Global Health " - 5:59 min.

The Task Force was founded in 1984 by Dr. William H. Foege, a renowned epidemiologist and former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director who is credited with developing the strategy that led to the eradication of smallpox. The Task Force originally focused on a single health issue — low childhood immunization rates in developing countries. By 1990, The Task Force had raised these rates from 20 to 80 percent worldwide. Since this early success, The Task Force has worked with hundreds of partners to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases and increase access to medicines and vaccines for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, polio, influenza, and cholera. Beginning with the Mectizan Donation Program, The Task Force is credited with helping mobilize the pharmaceutical industry to donate billions of dollars annually in essential medicines for the control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases.

Collaboration, health equity, and social justice are the cornerstones of all Task Force programs. The organization is a major partner in the global effort to eliminate three neglected tropical diseases by 2025 — blinding trachoma, river blindness, and lymphatic filariasis — which collectively threaten hundreds of millions of people each year with blindness, disfigurement, and even death.

The Task Force has begun examining how it might help address the growing epidemic of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which have eclipsed infectious diseases as the major causes of death for people in developing countries. Dr. Ross said that the organization's expertise and experience in getting vaccines and essential medicines to developing countries may be useful in helping to address some aspect of NCDs. The Hilton Prize money will support the acquisition of a larger headquarters in downtown Decatur that will enable The Task Force to move into NCDs and meet the growth needs of its existing programs.  

The Task Force and their achievements were honored at this year's international Humanitarian Symposium, sponsored by the Hilton Foundation, which took place in New York City at the Waldorf Astoria on Sept. 30. The focus of the symposium was on the future of humanitarian action, with speakers offering their visions of success in tackling some of the world's most pressing issues, such as the growing refugee crisis. Featured speakers included: Mary Robinson, president of the Mary Robinson Foundation — Climate Justice, former President of Ireland, and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; as well as Zainab Salbi, Iraqi-American author, women's rights activist, humanitarian, social entrepreneur, and media commentator who is the founder and former CEO of Hilton Prize Laureate Women for Women International.

Each year, the Foundation reviews hundreds of nominations from notable nonprofits across the globe, and an independent, international panel of distinguished jurors makes the final selection after a rigorous vetting process. Nominations for the 2017 Hilton Humanitarian Prize will be accepted from Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, and should be submitted through the Hilton Foundation website.

About the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help the world's disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Foundation currently conducts strategic initiatives in six priority areas: providing safe water, ending chronic homelessness, preventing substance use, helping children affected by HIV and AIDS, supporting transition-age youth in foster care, and extending Conrad Hilton's support for the work of Catholic Sisters. In addition, following selection by an independent international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $2 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a nonprofit organization doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. In 2015, the Humanitarian Prize was awarded to Landesa, a Seattle-based land rights organization. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1.4 billion in grants, distributing $107 million in the U.S. and around the world in 2015. The Foundation's current assets are approximately $2.5 billion.

About The Task Force for Global Health

The Task Force for Global Health is an international, nonprofit organization that works to improve health of people most in need, primarily in developing countries. Founded in 1984 by global health pioneer Bill Foege, The Task Force consists of programs focused on neglected tropical diseases, vaccines, field epidemiology, public health informatics, and health workforce development. The Task Force works in partnership with ministries of health and hundreds of organizations, including major pharmaceutical companies that donate billions of dollars annually in essential medicines. Major funders include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, de Beaumont Foundation, U.S. Agency for International Development, Sightsavers, Pfizer, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, and GSK. The Task Force team consists of 120 scientists, program experts, logisticians, and other global health professionals. It is affiliated with Emory University, headquartered in Decatur, Georgia, and has regional offices in Guatemala and Ethiopia. The Task Force currently supports work in 151 countries.