By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

Three titans in philanthropy are spending $225 million over the next five years to prevent 100 million deaths from heart disease and stroke and to stop disease epidemics throughout the world.

Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joined forces to back the project, called Resolve to Save Lives. It was unveiled Tuesday with an editorial in the health journal The Lancet, and will be led by Tom Frieden, M.D., former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and former commissioner of the New York City Health Department.

The project will run two programs. One features the ambitious goal of preventing 100 million deaths from heart disease and stroke—the leading causes of death in the world—over the next three decades. The other will aim help countries close life-threatening gaps in epidemic preparedness and response.

“While our foundation typically focuses on infectious diseases because they disproportionately affect the world’s poorest, we are increasingly concerned about the growing rate of cardiovascular disease in low- and middle-income countries,” said Bill Gates, Microsoft pioneer and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Resolve will be housed in an organization called Vital Strategies, which already works in 60 countries to address quality of life and health issues as varied as tobacco and road safety.

The initiative plans to work with partners such as the World Health Organization (WHO); Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; The World Bank; and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“We know what measures are proven to help reduce sickness and death from cardiovascular diseases,” said Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City and WHO’s Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases. “Every step we take to spread those measures will make a difference.”

Bloomberg and Frieden co-wrote the editorial in The Lancet, saying the Resolve project would focus on bringing action on a scale large enough to make a difference in key areas.

“In addition to tobacco control, three specific interventions—artificial trans-fat elimination, dietary sodium reduction, and effective treatment of high blood pressure—can reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease substantially and be implemented now,” the editorial said. “Fewer than one in six people live in countries implementing these three key interventions.”

Specifically, the group wants to:

— Increase global control of blood pressure from the current 14 percent of people with high blood pressure to 50 percent

— Reduce global dietary sodium intake by 30 percent

— Eliminate artificial trans fat from foods

Nancy Brown, the American Heart Association’s CEO who also serves as a board member for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, applauded the new project, its global aim and its leader.

“In our work in more than 70 countries and with thousands of hospitals around the world, we have seen the need for improving the public health infrastructure and surveillance systems to decrease preventable diseases and deaths,” Brown said.

“Dr. Frieden’s global leadership is urgently needed and complements our own efforts to increase control of blood pressure, reduce dietary sodium intake, eliminate trans fats and ensure every nation has the needed systems in place to help their communities build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.”