Our Programs

Environmental Health

Partnering with governments and promoting sound research and data to advocate for clean air.

In 2020, the Environmental Health program released “Toward Clean Air Jakarta,” a landmark study on the leading contributors to Jakarta’s air pollution, and created a new website the public can use to track the government’s response to the problem. More broadly in Indonesia, Vital is developing an investment case for air pollution mitigation for the well-being of children, in collaboration with UNICEF Indonesia, the Indonesian Ministry of National Development Planning, and civil society. Also in 2020, the program released “Through the Smokescreen,” a report revealing the public’s limited understanding of the major sources of air pollution. Vital has joined the newly created Clean Air Accelerator consortium to advance the capacity of countries and USAID to engage the public health sector in driving air pollution policy initiatives in Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia.

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Cardiovascular Health

Trans fat elimination, hypertension control and salt reduction are the lifesaving triad of Resolve’s fight against the world’s No. 1 killer.

In 2020, the Resolve to Save Lives initiative at Vital Strategies continued working to combat cardiovascular disease—the number one cause of death globally—by focusing on trans fat elimination, hypertension control and salt reduction. Resolve to Save Lives continued its partnership with WHO to launch the "Second Progress Report on Global Trans Fat Elimination" for the REPLACE initiative, which monitors global progress toward eliminating artificial trans fat. So far, 58 countries have introduced laws to protect 3.2 billion people from the harmful substance by the end of 2021. Expansion of the hypertension control program in 2020 included continued deployment of Phase 2 of the India Hypertension Control Initiative, as well as the launch of new programs in Ethiopia, Mexico, Nigeria and the Philippines. By the end of 2020, nearly 2 million people had received hypertension care and treatment across all target countries. And Vietnam launched its first mass media campaign supporting salt reduction.

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Data for Health

Turning information into action, our Data for Health teams help governments make data-driven, best-buy public health decisions.

The Data for Health programs, part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative, support governments to collect, analyze and use data in national health planning and policymaking. In 2020, the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) program led the development of technical guidance for rapid mortality surveillance during the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting implementation of the guidance in 14 countries. In addition, the Data Impact program team helped develop COVID-specific tools for monitoring the epidemic and the effectiveness of public health and social measures. Our Global Grants Program solicited, evaluated, awarded and supported 34 grants (totaling $3 million) in 15 countries for data system strengthening, including a dedicated round of funding for COVID-related projects. The Cancer Registry Program helped the ministries of health in Tanzania and Myanmar strengthen data collection and analysis and collaborated with the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the African Cancer Registry Network to transition a two-week in-person course to remote learning to address training needs during the pandemic.

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Food Policy

Planting the seeds of education and advocacy to reap policy wins in Brazil, Jamaica and South Africa.

Now in its sixth year, Vital’s Food Policy Program can count policy wins in Brazil, Jamaica and South Africa, each one the result of years of intensive work. In Brazil, after six years of extensive advocacy by partners, the National Health Surveillance Agency in October 2020 approved a new front-of-package labeling standard for packaged foods. Vital also released guidance to help other countries develop front-of-package labeling that clearly warns consumers to avoid unhealthy products. We established the Healthy Food Policy Fellowship in 2020 to support Ph.D. or LL.M. candidates with the aim of building research capacity in focus countries. The first cohort of fellows—from Mexico, Jamaica and Barbados—mark the beginning of a pipeline of future leaders, supported by Vital, who will help bridge research gaps and guide future national policies for a healthier food environment in target countries.

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Overdose Prevention

Gaining national media attention, Vital’s Overdose Prevention team helps shape state and local responses to overdose.

In 2020, Vital Strategies’ Overdose Prevention Program helped shape state strategic plans for overdose response in Pennsylvania and Michigan, including: broad public education on harm reduction; state legislation to authorize syringe programs; expansion of community naloxone programs; improved access in hospital emergency departments, prisons and jails to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD); expanded naloxone access through mailing and emergency medical services’ leave-behind protocols; and state funding and legislative priorities to expand syringe programs and require hospitals to build MOUD capacity. The program expanded to begin working in New Haven, Connecticut, and across local jurisdictions in New Jersey, building harm reduction services, supporting community organizing by and for people who use drugs, and ramping up naloxone distribution and mobile harm reduction services. The Overdose Prevention team also developed pandemic-specific guidance to help people who use drugs stay safer, and to advance best practices by syringe programs and other programs in response to COVID-19.

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Partnership for 
Healthy Cities

The global network of mayors gains Vital support to protect residents from the devastation of COVID-19.

Mayors and other urban leaders around the world have risen to the challenge of responding to COVID-19, and in 2020 Vital Strategies helped them make difficult decisions about how to protect the health of their residents while also striving to shore up economic stability. Vital’s Partnership for Healthy Cities (PHC) program—a network of 70 cities in 51 countries committed to preventing noncommunicable diseases and injuries—expanded to support cities’ COVID-19 responses as well, issuing two rounds of rapid response grants for COVID-19 communication, surveillance and legal/policy development that resulted in a total of 81 projects in 53 cities. In addition to the more than $2.5 million committed to support cities in the network, Vital provided our partners with leadership and technical webinars, complemented by a new online PHC COVID-19 Response Center with resources for cities around the world.

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Prevent Epidemics

In a year like no other, Resolve to Save Lives stepped up to help governments and communities respond to COVID-19.

Long before COVID-19, the Resolve to Save Lives initiative at Vital Strategies worked globally to strengthen systems to prepare for epidemics. Beginning in early 2020, the Prevent Epidemics team largely shifted focus to respond to COVID-19, but also continued its prevention efforts. Its work included: conducting the first-ever comprehensive review of the status of COVID-19 information in the United States; establishing on-the-ground health care worker training focused on COVID-19 infection prevention and control that was implemented throughout Africa; providing access to emergency funds to improve epidemic response timeliness and capacity in Nigeria; enabling and evaluating preparedness in Liberia; accelerating the global health security agenda in Ethiopia; bolstering public health measures in Uganda; and graduating the first cohort of midlevel managers from its yearlong training course on Program Management for Epidemic Preparedness.

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Navigating through the global pandemic, STREAM is the world’s largest recruited clinical trial for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

The experience of the STREAM trial against the backdrop of the pandemic highlights the importance of contingency planning and risk mitigation both before and during unanticipated crises. Navigating STREAM through the COVID-19 pandemic was no easy task, but Vital Strategies’ Research team responded quickly and effectively to ensure that no participant in the trial experienced treatment interruption. The team completed recruitment to the STREAM Stage 2 trial in early 2020: With more than 1,000 participants across eight countries involved in both stages of the trial, STREAM is now the world’s largest recruited clinical trial for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

Read more about Research/TB.

Road Safety

Vital’s Road Safety program expands to seven new cities, promoting science-based lifesaving policies.

In 2020, Vital Strategies’ Road Safety program successfully launched a new phase of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for In 2020, Vital Strategies’ Road Safety program successfully launched a new phase of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety for 2020-2025, engaging 22 cities in 13 countries and signing 14 collaboration agreements. The surveillance team completed baseline assessments of road traffic mortality and injury surveillance systems in seven new cities, with recommendations for strengthening. Adapting to COVID-19 restrictions, the program remotely led 11 high-level multi-agency meetings with mayors and 12 kickoff meetings, and hired 45 embedded coordinators to be co-managed by partner cities. The communication team supported speeding mass media campaigns in Fortaleza, Brazil, as well as in two newly onboarded cities—Cali, Colombia, and Quito, Ecuador—and held a series of training webinars for journalists in Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador. Publication of campaign results began in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Cities with a peer-reviewed study on Addis Ababa’s drink-driving campaign. Co-authored with city officials, the study provides some of the first evidence of the efficacy of such campaigns in low-income countries.

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Tobacco Control

With key policy wins in Indonesia, Turkey, Viet Nam and Mexico, Vital’s Tobacco Control program continues to expand its impact.

Vital’s Tobacco Control program scored 17 national and subnational policy wins in eight priority countries, reaching at least 2 billion people in 2020. Despite COVID-19 lockdowns, significant wins were gained in Indonesia, Turkey, Viet Nam and Mexico, including expanded smoke-free protections and tobacco tax increases. In India, Vital’s media campaign supported the national ban on the use of smokeless tobacco products and public spitting. In Pakistan, Vital partnered with the government to create the FACT (Fighting to Alleviate Corona Together) campaign that included messaging to dispel myths about smoking and COVID-19. The program also conducted e-cigarette message testing studies in India and Ukraine. Meanwhile, activities by our tobacco industry watchdog, STOP, significantly increased exposure of tobacco industry interference in public health policymaking—especially during the pandemic—receiving media attention across 46 countries in 2020 and increasing website visitors by nearly 1,000%. STOP's social media impact also grew, with a 172% increase in followers on Twitter and 166% on Instagram and impressive growth in impressions and engagements across all social media platforms.

Read more about Tobacco Control.