Public-Private Sector Roundtable Discussion on Zika
Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources
Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment
MR. JIM THOMPSON: Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. We're going to go ahead and get started. If you would please, go ahead and take a seat. Thank you very much.
Thank you so much for coming. My name is Jim Thompson. I am the Director of Innovation in the Office of Global Partnerships. I'm excited to have all of you here today for this discussion on Zika, and it's a Zika private sector roundtable. And while there are no round tables in this room, I promise there are round or squarish or rectangular-ish tables in our breakout rooms, and we'll have you back there very soon because we want to hear from all of you.
On that note, I want to actually ask everyone-- I see some millennials in the room, and you guys already have your cell phones in your hand. For everyone else, I welcome you to take out your cell phone, because we want you to be talking about this event and about what you can do on Zika. So we have a hashtag. It's #zika. For those who don't know what a hashtag is, it's the number sign. So please feel free-- take out your cell phone now. I'll model good behavior.
It's out. So you are welcome to tweet at us. We will be happy to talk with you on that hashtag too. Just note that it's not a private channel so the world will be seeing it. My office, the Office of Global Partnerships, brings together public and private sector to build public-private partnerships. And we've been at this now for about nine years here at the State Department. We have good friends at the U.S. Agency for International Development, who have also helped us with this event. So thank you to them and the broader interagency that's pulled this together.
We are excited to have with us a great lineup of speakers this morning. And to start us off, I am honored to introduce Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom. She is actually a prime example of a great leader in the fight against Zika, mobilizing resources and managing the department's international response to the disease.
Since 2013, she's overseen the department's operations, serving as the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources. Previously, she served as a counselor to the Secretary of State, advising the Secretary on policy, personnel, and management issues. Her years of experience in policy development and operations at the State Department, the Office of Management and Budget, the White House Domestic Policy Council, and key presidential races has given her key insights into the resources and leadership required to combat both domestic and global challenges, such as Zika. Please join me in welcoming State's COO, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom.
DEPUTY SECRETARY HEATHER HIGGINBOTTOM: Good morning. Thank you, Jim, very much. And I also want to echo your thanks to your team, to you, to OES, the interagency, and all of our partners for arranging this forum today and, importantly, to all of you for being here. I'm especially pleased that we're joined this morning by Amy Pope, who is leading the Zika response at the White House, and that she's going to share her thoughts and perspectives with us shortly.
As everyone in this room is aware, Zika is a growing public health emergency. It's growing in our hemisphere and beyond. And we've already begun to see the impact with tens of thousands of confirmed cases and hundreds of thousands more suspected in the Americas. We've seen the heartbreaking images of children born with microcephaly. We are aware of the rare cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome that can affect people of any age. And we know that mosquitoes and diseases cross borders.
So we're here today because we know that we all are part of the solution. The U.S. government has identified its core goals-- inform and protect women who are or may become pregnant and their sexual partners on how to avoid the disease, control the mosquitoes carrying it, develop reliable diagnostics and treatments, and provide the public with information on how to prevent Zika transmission. Since the WHO declared Zika and associated microcephaly a public health emergency of international concern back in February, we've made good progress in protecting people here and around the world.
We've worked with others across the U.S. government to develop a comprehensive strategy to prevent, detect, and respond to Zika. And we've acted quickly to provide as much funding as we can, while urgently asking Congress to address still largely unmet needs. Here at the State Department we are focused on coordination, communication, and building the right team. We coordinate with foreign governments and organizations to get response strategies in place and to help them address legal and regulatory hurdles. We communicate essential information every day to Americans abroad, and we translate and provide cultural context for foreign publics who trust us to cut through the clutter.
But perhaps most important is our third role as convener, building a team of people, like you and the businesses and organizations that you represent. Our extensive networks and relationships around the world give our department a unique ability to bring key players together, just like we're doing here today. We've seen from previous crises that the best way to address a situation of this magnitude is to marshal the resources of everyone to help.
So today's event will help us apply the lessons learned from the responses to international public health emergencies, including Ebola, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. The first lesson learned is the importance of partnerships. Public-private partnerships have been essential to the whole-of-society response to malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. But partnerships have to be done right, and we have to identify needed companies, community organizations, funders, and governmental partners to ensure that we're each playing the right role and that we're working from the best possible plan.
Perhaps nobody understands and executes this better than Nothing But Nets. And that's why we're so happy to have them here today. With help from partners like the U.S. government and the NBA, Nothing But Nets has, in just a decade, delivered nearly 10 million bed nets to protect families in sub-Saharan Africa, a critical-- critical-- part of transforming the once distant dream of ending malaria deaths in the region into a realistic possibility.
Another very important lesson from previous responses is the need for strong communication among the organizations represented in this room and across our government. So after we leave here today, how do we best let each other know where and when we need support? How do you share what you're learning about demand for products, the best ways to disseminate information, and the challenges you may face as an American company or organization operating overseas?
Today's sessions are an opportunity for us to have these open conversations and further strengthen our relationships, knowing that none of us can solve this challenge alone. You're part of the strategy to protect the people we all serve, whether we relate to them as constituents, employees, patients, customers, or potential visitors. Your expertise is critical to produce effective diagnostics, vaccines, and treatments as quickly as possible.
There's still a lot we don't know about this emergency. But as we assemble more pieces of the puzzle, the remaining gaps become clearer. We know that a whole-of-society response is necessary and that working together multiplies our impact. So throughout the session today, I hope that you'll keep an important question in mind-- who in this room can I work with to change the course of Zika? So thank you very much for being here and being a part of this conversation and continuing our efforts to work together to address this emergency. Thank you.
MR. THOMPSON: So we actually have a very packed agenda. But we want to make time for Amy Pope to come up and speak to you, too. So Amy is the Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security at the White House, and she is leading this interagency effort on Zika, so Amy, please.
DEPUTY ASSISTANT AMY POPE: Good morning, everybody. It is terrific to be here, and thank you, Jim, for bringing all these important partners together. Can I just show you what's here on my podium? Zap Zika-- that's really exciting. So first of all, I just want to tell you who I am. I'm the President's Deputy Homeland Security Advisor. My name's Amy Pope. And I recognize fully that I'm standing between you all and real work, so I'm going to make my remarks very brief. But I just want to give you just a little snapshot of what I do and why I'm here.
So as the Deputy Homeland Security Adviser, my job is really to convene the different departments and agencies that work together on a variety of problems that we face in the United States. And you might ask why is the Deputy Homeland Security Advisor working on Zika, which is a global problem? And I think it really reflects the President's recognition that the global is now national. When we're talking about pandemic threats, we fully recognize that we can't protect the United States until we look well outside our borders and until we make the investments that are needed around the world to provide the ability to protect the United States, to predict what will happen across the world, to detect and respond. And so that's why having all of you here today is so important to me and so important to the work I do.
I want to recognize that so many of you already are involved in combating this disease. If not Zika, then other related diseases. And yet here you are once again, ready to stretch just a little bit further to help the American people and the world. Your dedication, your presence here is important to the President. It's important to all of us who work on this issue in the federal family, and more importantly, it's important to the global community.
Frankly, we are here today because we do not have the tools that we need. We do not have the tools to detect Zika. We do not have the tools to prevent Zika, and we do not have the tools to respond to Zika. And this is a fight that is going to continue to require the best thinking, the best minds of all the people in this room, whether you're part of the federal government, whether you're with an NGO, the public health sector, or just an ordinary citizen.
The need for innovation, information sharing, and new public private partnerships doesn't stop with Zika. We know that vector-borne diseases-- Zika, Dengue, chikungunya, malaria-- they are a significant and persistent threat to human health. Yet our tools for detecting and responding to them are simply inadequate.
So I have a five-year-old and an eight-year-old, and they're very interested in sort of dangerous animals these days. And we love to play the game of What's the Most Dangerous Animal. I don't know if you guys have seen this on Facebook, right? And so is it a shark? No. It is a lion? No. Sort of go through all the big predators that you can imagine. And when it comes right down to it, it's actually the mosquito.
It's the mosquito that's responsible for killing more humans than any other animal, the mosquito that's responsible for a wide variety of diseases that we see around the world. And now we're seeing that the mosquito is responsible for a birth defect that's never been seen before. This is unprecedented. And so we are constantly trying to create new tools in our tool box to go after this very tiny, little, resilient creature, and we're just not there yet. And the way we get there is through this team.
It's through all the people in this room. That's why I'm so, so thrilled that all of you are here today to focus on the many different ways to get to this challenge-- challenges that are common across disease threats, but challenges that we know are unique to this particular virus. We have an incredibly diverse group of stakeholders here today. You have unique skills. You have unique abilities. Looking around the room, I hope that you recognize that you have -- that we're bringing together wide variety of people who have expertise in different topics and strengths, and there's just amazing brain power in this room. And the ability to harness all of the different bits and pieces that are in the heads of the people in this room is why you're here today.
No one predicted Zika. I can tell you we had been watching Zika for months and months and months, and we did not recognize the significant impact it would have on human health. And we know that it's going to continue to require the research to better understand it, to better understand how it's spread. Every single day we're learning something new.
It's why earlier this year the Centers for Disease Control convened a group of federal, state, and local stakeholders at what we called the Zap Summit, the Zika Action Plan Summit in Atlanta, where we brought together a wide range of experts to come up with our best plans for preparing to respond to that disease. And since that time, we have made progress. We brought the issue down to the community level. We have our state and local governments. They have all prepared Zika action plans. They're working across jurisdictions to come up with the best information to respond to the mosquito.
But we recognize that we need to continue the work. We still don't have a silver bullet. We don't know, for example, aerial spraying, doesn't work the way that it does against other mosquitoes. Because this mosquito is so resilient, because it bites during the day, the nets that we've used to counter malaria are not as effective in countering this particular disease. And number one, you're going to hear this, I hope, throughout the day. We know the government doesn't have all the tools.
We don't have the vaccines yet. We don't have point-of-care diagnostics. We don't have effective control for the mosquito. And the federal government is not going to be the one to develop these tools on our own. So number one, today's job, we are focused on outcomes. We want you to literally in some cases roll up your sleeves. We want you to engage, to discuss, to think through new ideas, to launch innovative ways to accelerate the fight through our collective action. And I want to tell you no idea is too small.
Again, in my house, we talk about things like Zika and Ebola all the time. I don't know what my children's therapy bills will look like someday. But in the meantime, they are thinking about how can we combat the mosquito? Some of you might have heard me talking earlier Hackathon, where before the Hackathon, my girls were thinking through, OK, what would we do?
They decided, well, we'd throw a party for mosquitoes. We'd have a pinata filled with blood, which would attract the mosquitoes. And when all the mosquitoes came to the party, then we'd throw confetti, but it would have pesticide in it, right? It was just sort of crazy. But that's the kind of crazy that leads to good innovation. I don't know if that one will, but.
So first and foremost, let's accelerate our tools to control the mosquito and prevent the spread of Zika. We need your help to protect pregnant women-- to protect themselves from the virus. We need innovation to address the supply chain and the logistics and the regulatory needs to combat the virus. We need to find the best ways to communicate to people that this is a real and urgent disease.
We know from some of our research that folks aren't always taking the disease so seriously. And so they're not taking the measures to protect themselves. They're not taking the measures to get rid of still water or report mosquito breeding sites, because they just don't see it the way they see something like Dengue or chikungunya, where you can see that people are suffering. But what we fully expect is that months from now we'll see the impact of the disease.
So communicating to people well before they become pregnant and before they have babies with birth defects is an incredibly important part of this effort. And we need your help in pioneering new and effective partnerships with international organizations. And we need to figure out better ways to innovate across the public and private sectors to address each of these issues.
I just want to impart to you this strong sense of urgency we feel. The work you're doing today is vital. The partnerships, the links that you're making, these are needed, and they're needed now to prevent birth defects. We're going to hear some really great examples about partnerships that have worked, partnerships that are effective, with targets and measurable impacts. They are inspiring examples. And the reason we're presenting these to you is to show you that this works, and sort of inspire all of us collectively to figure out ways to make this work.
Many of these partnerships apply not only to Zika, but also to other diseases. And we continue to provide resources for other countries to prevent, detect, and respond to Zika and other emerging health diseases. I want to say a few words about the Global Health Security Agenda because I know some of you in the room have been working on it. And I believe that's ultimately the foundation of the work that we're doing here.
Zika is our current threat. Zika is what we're responding to, and we're very focused on it at this moment in time. But as we know, as we've seen with Ebola, as we've seen with chikungunya and a whole wide range of threats, Zika is not the last threat we're going to face. And so full implementation of the Global Health Security Agenda is absolutely critical.
It just provides us with a blueprint as to how to be prepared for future outbreaks and how to help our partners in the most vulnerable countries stop outbreaks at their source. I'm really pleased that the organizers of the Global Health Security Agenda private sector roundtable-- many of you are in the audience today. And we are very, very grateful for your continued involvement. We appreciate the work that you are doing to build capacity, to build preparedness, to prevent future outbreaks from becoming epidemics. And I want to encourage you to apply the work that comes out of today's event to build partnerships in countries around the world and communities around the world and partnerships that will last well beyond Zika, and can be adapted to other threats as they arise.
This was the key charge that we received from the President when we were looking at Ebola, and he reiterated it when we were talking about Zika. He made clear this is just one disease. We need to be thinking -- we need to have a vision for the future. We need to make sure that the relationships that we are building will last well into dealing with the next disease, and we take this very seriously.
You should know that we're continuing to ask Congress to work very urgently to pass a supplemental. That's not always been the easiest task, it's clear. But despite what happens with Congress, the disease, the threat is now, and we need to keep working with whatever resources we have at our disposal. We're not going to wait to protect our communities.
We don't believe that this should be a zero-sum game. We don't believe that we should play off one disease against another. We don't believe that we should sacrifice our commitment to global health security around the world in favor of one particular disease threat. But we think we can and we should do all.
So in closing, I just want to say, we need your help. I'm not proud. I'm just going to put it out there. We need your help. We need your help to accelerate the work on vaccines. We need your help to accelerate work on developing rapid diagnostics. We need your help in developing next generation vector-control options, to build the community partnerships that reach out and protect pregnant women, to control the vector that carries the Zika virus, and to do all of these things well across the seams that traditionally divide the private sector and the government.
In the next few weeks, the administration is going to announce a private sector call to action. And we're going to highlight some of the terrific work that's already been done, some of the new commitments that are coming out of this meeting here today. And we encourage you and all of your colleagues to join us in this incredibly important effort. In this room, we have the most important asset that we could ask for-- brainpower and teamwork. We believe that these are the recipes for unlocking success.
I wish you all the best as you dream up your new solutions. Unlock the possible and swiftly put into place what is needed to combat this virus. And as I said, no idea is too small. No idea is too crazy. I'll bring them back to my five-year-old and my eight-year-old for fun, no matter what. But we believe that what you are doing here today is absolutely critical.
We have the ability to contain this disease. We believe that. And we have the ability to solve the challenges associated with it. So thank you for your dedication. Thank you for your work. I look forward to hearing from you throughout the day and to seeing the innovations that you all put into place to save lives and prevent devastating birth defects in the future. Thank you.
MR. THOMPSON: Thank you very much, Amy. Stole my thunder with my tag, but that's OK.
DEPUTY ASSISTANT POPE: Sorry!
MR. THOMPSON: That's OK. Actually, all of you will get this. We were very excited to see these coming out of Baltimore County. States have taken on this issue. They recognize the threat. They have some really good information out there, they're pulling in from CDC.
But I wanted to let you know who's in the room today. So apart from our U.S. government officials, we have lots of private sector companies in different sectors, such as transportation, entertainment, communications, hospitality, vector control. I mean, this is a great room full of people that will enable us, hopefully, to come up with some really interesting solutions. We also have government in the room-- CDC, HHS, NIH, USAID, State Department. Lots of different government agencies are here.
We wanted to really kick off this morning with these opening introductions and then bring up a panel that is currently working-- a panel of great people who are currently working on malaria, so another mosquito-borne disease that continues to plague us. And it would hopefully help us think about how can we build something around partnerships for Zika and the Zika response. So that's why we've put together this panel discussion this morning from Nothing But Nets.
So what I'd like to do now is to bring up the panelists to come and talk with us about Nothing But Nets. This is a great-- Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, the Coordinator for the U.S. President's Malaria Initiative, please come on up. Margaret McDonnell, who's appointed the Director of the UN Foundation's Nothing But Nets campaign; Rabbi Jonah Pesner, who's the Director of Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism; Dr. Steve Kraus, the Director of Global Business for Public Health. And, Jack, are you in this one? You are not in this one, OK. I just wanted to double check. I saw you sitting there.
Again, these are our panelists, and we are really excited this morning, too, to be joined by Undersecretary Cathy Novelli. Cathy leads the Department's efforts to develop and implement economic growth, energy, oceans, environmental and science technology policies to promote economic prosperity and address global challenges. She also serves as the State Department's Senior Coordinator for International Information Technology Diplomacy. And prior to her current role, she was the Vice President of Worldwide Government Affairs at Apple, Inc. So Cathy, I'm going to turn it over to you.
UNDERSECRETARY CATHY NOVELLI: Thanks so much. It's on? I've worked at Apple. But I still have technological challenges. Sorry about that.
Well I am really honored to be up here with all of you, all of this panel, because everybody on this panel has done an incredible thing, which is to work together in all these different layers to ferment something that is truly unique and effective and creative and, actually, I think may provide us with some sort of a template, perhaps not exact, since Nothing But Nets is about malaria and Zika is not malaria, but can really give us, I hope, some real creative ideas about how to take forward a multi-layered whole-of-society approach to solving a health problem. And so I'm so happy to be able to moderate this panel and to learn from everybody on it how this got going. And so perhaps if I can just start with a question, and I'll start with Ms. McDonnell, just to sort of describe how did Nothing But Nets get started? And then we can ask each one of the panelists to talk about how they got involved. So do you want to start?
MARGARET MCDONNELL: Hello? Oh, good. It's already on. Perfect. Hi, everyone. I'm Margaret, Director of Nothing But Nets and really honored to be here and humbled by the invitation, and want, of course, acknowledge that we're really proud to have been part of the progress that has been made in the fight against malaria. As we know, we've been able to more than half deaths from this disease over the course of the last 10 to 15 years. And we're proud of the advocacy work that we do in support of programs like the President's Malaria Initiative and the Global Fund, who really do the lion's share of this work, in conjunction with the military, who's leading on the scientific developments to find a vaccine.
We're proud of the unique role that we've been able to play in terms of mobilizing a broad and diverse range of supporters, individuals, partners, celebrities, private sector, et cetera, to this fight. So we realize we're a relatively small player but have hopefully helped to elevate the issue, provide a lot of momentum, and drumbeat to continue the strong U.S. leadership in the fight against malaria. So to your question, it's sort of a fascinating story.
We're actually in our 10th year. So back in 2006, the United Nations Foundation was doing a lot of work on malaria within the context of the UN Millennium Development Goals, of course, to end malaria deaths. And Rick Reilly, a Sports Illustrated journalist at the time-- I think he saw a PBS special or something while he was on vacation with his family and couldn't believe that every 30 seconds a child was dying from this disease.
So he decided to write an article on the back page of Sports Illustrated in May of 2006 that really called his fans to action. He said, we always talk about basketball nets or soccer nets, et cetera. Today I want to talk to you about the power of lifesaving bed nets. And that really sparked a movement. Apparently, the story is he called the UN Foundation, said, set up an account. I'm about to write this article. And within, I think it was, a couple weeks, $1M dollars had been raised, thousands of supporters.
So that's actually how it got started, which shows of the power of the media. And that actually has directly meant the unique constituents, I think, that have been brought, because it really rather than just inspiring those who are sort of traditionally development or global health-minded, it really brought in a whole new slew of new audiences-- sports fans, people who had never been to Africa or any of the endemic countries, but were inspired about the very specific value proposition of being able to make a tangible difference through donating $10 to help send a net and save a life. We know it's not that simple. But that was the idea. And I think that value proposition is what helped to kick start a swell of energy and new excitement around the issue. So.
UNDERSECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, great. Thanks. That's a great story. And maybe we can all take an example from that about how do we-- I think part of what's unique about this coming from a company that knows how to brand is having a brand and being able to then have folks plug into that. And so that might be food for thought for people in the room as well.
Admiral, do you want to talk about your involvement in that?
REAR ADMIRAL TIM ZIEMER: Yeah, Catherine, thanks. And hello, everybody. It's a real privilege to be here. Nothing But Nets has been an excellent partner, and they've been with the U.S. government's commitment to fight the global malaria challenge since day one. In 2006, when the President's Initiative was launched by President Bush, it became clear as a pillar component of the success of the initiative that an active, vibrant, effective partnership was critical-- public, private, and also at the country level.
Nothing But Nets was there on day one. And as the President's Malaria Initiative has scaled up and implemented in over 22 countries now in sub-Saharan Africa and three in the Southeast Asia Mekong region, we have existing partnerships and relationships with over 200 organizations, of which 1/3 are faith-based. But focusing in on Nothing But Nets, there's a unique component of what they do-- advocacy that demonstrates that anybody who understands the adverse impact of the infectious disease of malaria and the numbers of people that are dying needlessly every day, anyone can get involved-- kids, Boy Scouts, youth groups, and oh, by the way, celebrities too.
Ever heard the name of Steph Curry? Steph Curry was at the White House when the President launched the next six year strategy of the President's Malaria Initiative. And Steph not only was there to say he was all in on advocating for the disease, but also he was going to continue to contribute, which carried over from his days as a college basketball player at Davidson and now on playing with the Warriors.
You may not know this, but every three pointer he makes, he buys three bed nets. And that gets fed back in to complement the 10 million bed nets that the Nothing But Nets folks have done. So in addition to engaging the American people and folks around the world at every level, they advocate on the Hill to support the President's agenda and his budget. They also raise money for stuff, commodities, in this case, bed nets and significantly influence and bring other folks along.
So I just want to thank Nothing But Nets for being there since day one and still staying engaged. I think part of the message here is public-private partnerships is not a new concept. It takes a lot of hard work for different organizations to put their hand up and say, here I am. Where do I plug in? How do I measure what it is that I'm supposed to do to contribute to the global initiative? How do I measure the contribution? And then most private companies want to know what the exit plan is or what the end result is and how to measure that.
So I'll stop there. But I'm just grateful to be here to express my thanks to Nothing But Nets. But to advocate, thank the White House and the State Department for pushing the public-private partnership component of trying to wrestle this Zika problem to the ground.
UNDERSECRETARY NOVELLI: Thanks so much, Admiral. And one of the things I take away from listening to what you're saying about a layered approach is that advocates need to come from all areas, not just the government. And that regular people need to have something to do that's tangible. We can all say Zika's a bad thing and we should do something about it. But the question is, what is it that the average person can do? And I think Nothing But Nets captured that very well.
So, Rabbi, I would love to hear how you have been involved with all of your amazing things that you've been working on.
RABBI JONAH PESNER: Sure, well, thank you. And inspired by a great retired admiral, let me quote another retired admiral who sat on a stage like this once and famously said, who am I, and what am I doing here? Some of you may be wondering, why is there a rabbi on the stage having a conversation about Zika and malaria? But it really does begin to answer the question, how do we get everybody involved? How do we put, as the Admiral said before we started, how do we keep the fuel in the tank so that we can really power this movement?
Because as much as we need the kind of top-down interventions from both governments and celebrities, we need millions of grassroots citizens to step up and engage. We need them to educate their communities. We need them to advocate to build the political will for funding and for interventions. And we need them to invest their dollars. And we're really proud and grateful to be a partner with Nothing But Nets.
I echo the Admiral's words of praise. Margaret, thank you. Thank you to the UN Foundation for the opportunity. I represent the Reform Jewish Movement. We're the largest denomination in Jewish life. But we're one of many faith partners and other communal partners that works with Nothing But Nets. So I'm here as kind of a case study of what's possible when one grassroots constituency gets engaged. But there are many that the UN Foundation and that Nothing But Nets has engaged with over time.
The particular nature of our partnership is to leverage the 2,000 rabbis across the United States and North America, the 900 Reform congregations, and the 1.5 million souls who consider themselves Reform Jews, who are looking to act on their values. Because as an organized faith movement, we have both faith power and people power. So we have the power of our faith tradition. We're called in the Torah, in our biblical text, over and over again to be there for the widow and the orphan and the stranger. The biblical text reminds us every time we read scripture that we are to be present for the most vulnerable in society, to lift up the fallen, and to heal the ill.
So when we look at a global health challenge, like malaria, which impacts millions of people, but most important for this conversation, impacts the most vulnerable, the poorest. And we think about Zika, and, of course, as Zika spreads, it will mostly impact the people who are the least equipped to fight it. And so we, as a faith tradition, get called to action to respond and to intervene and to do something.
But the power doesn't just come in the claim on our moral text and the way we hear God's voice in the world. It comes from our people power. It comes from the millions of folks in our pews at the grassroots level who want to do something. And so really, our partnership has fallen into three components-- education, advocacy, and philanthropy.
So Nothing But Nets have given us the tools to be able to educate our base. I remember almost 10 years ago walking through the halls of our biennial convention, where we had 5,000 souls gathered to learn about Reform Judaism. And there in the center was a basketball hoop. And, of course, being the person that I am, I immediately went over, started shooting some hoops. And that was how I learned from the activist who was manning the basketball station, which had a line of hundreds of people waiting to take turns to shoot hoops, about malaria, about Nothing But Nets, and that my simple and small contribution could actually make a difference, which is when I became an activist at the grassroots level nearly a decade ago.
Once we engage people with -- by educating them about the disease, we are then able to it encourage bar and bat mitzvah students to do this as their bar, bat mitzvah project, religious schools to teach this is part of the curriculum, youth groups, sisterhood groups, rabbis to preach about this, teach about this at a Purim carnival or a Passover celebration, to put up the basketball hoop, and to teach Nothing But Nets. That's how we both educate our community and then get them to raise dollars to send nets. And perhaps most important, tens of thousands of Reform Jews who advocate for our most deeply held beliefs and values and for positions of the Reform Jewish movement have taken over the last century or so, have descended on Washington, have visited their representatives and their senators, and advocated on behalf of the President's Malaria Initiative on funding to combat the disease and to make sure that it's a priority for the U.S. government and for American society to do something.
So we're honored and privileged. And I think we're an example of how if we hear Heather's words at the beginning, who asked, think about in this room, who can I partner with? My plea would be to think about the power of the organized faith community. Tens of millions of souls in this country go to church, go to mosque, go to synagogue, and ask the simple question, how can I live my faith tradition in the world? Many of you have the answer. We just haven't thought creatively about how to make the connection in their lives.
UNDERSECRETARY NOVELLI: Thanks very much for that, Rabbi-- very inspiring and true faith in action as well as showing what a force multiplier the whole faith-based community can be when they are properly plugged in and have specific tasks that they can do. So thank you. All right. Dr. Kraus, you have done incredible lifesaving things. So we'd very much like to hear from you.
DR. STEVE KRAUS: Well thank you for the invitation and opportunity to say a few words on the development of the first bed used in the global fight against malaria. I represent Sumitomo Chemical, who produces Olyset net. And if you have ever been to Africa and slept under a bed net, it's probably a sea of hands out there, you can thank the developers in industry who have created this wonderful tool to supplement other tools available for you to protect against insect-transmitted disease.
You'll see I'm actually a member of Valent BioSciences Corporation, and we are a group member of Sumitomo. And our role is really the development of soft chemistry, soft biological products to lower the chemical burden on the planet. And I've been involved with public health for almost 20 years. And I think it's really important for the group to understand that everybody in this room and everybody in industry, in public health really has a passion for the human health condition.
Agriculture right now is trying to feed 7.2 billion people. By 2050, we'll have 9 billion-plus people on the planet, mostly poor, mostly uneducated, mostly sick and diseased. Vector control is just one component of health. But if we don't have healthy people, you can't become educated, you can't contribute to society, you can't have healthy children. And before you know it, civilization starts to sort of tail off.
The first example of public-private partnerships that were quite successful in vector control was in West Africa back in the 1980s to fight river blindness or onchocerciasis, you may be aware of. And river blindness is basically a filarial worm that's transmitted by an insect, called a black fly, to people. It's transmitted. The worm migrates underneath your skin, goes to your eyes, and causes river blindness.
When that affects the working class in villages, the young have to lead the blinded adults by sticks around the villages, and so you lose productivity and health. Well, through public-private partnership, World Health Organization, World Bank, industry, community, local leaders of all different denominations, you had interventions established for drug treatment to sicken people and to the vector world. So there's really two components to health we're talking about today under Zika. One is how do you develop a tool for individuals to take-- a vaccine, a blood treatment, healthy eating patterns? All those build stronger people.
In my world as an entomologist, I'm trying to lessen the likelihood you'll be bitten by a transmitting vector organism. So we're trying to manage the population growth of these vectors to help supplement other tools. Sumitomo is in direct partnership with Nothing But Nets and has been for a number of years. And last September I made a formal pledge to contribute to the One Million Net Campaign in donating 1/2 million nets to the campaign, matching one-for-one through 2016. That's a wonderful contribution to help supplement other interventions.
Regarding Zika, besides the examples of public-private partnership success, I'm pleased to say that there's been a lot of work done to control Dengue vectors that's directly transferable to Zika, because we're dealing with the same insect, the same habitat. And there's a lot of technology taken from precision agriculture applications that we've transferred into public health globally. We'll talk more about this going forward in the future.
There's a lot of work being done in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico as we speak. We've been very active in Brazil since last October, when Zika really hit the news waves. So we have some tools. They're not perfect. But they can help supplement the risks we all face. At the same time, we look forward to building stronger partnerships going forward and on behalf of Sumitomo and all of industry, we look forward to the opportunity.
UNDERSECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, thanks very much. I'm so intrigued by what you just said about the tools and that you all have been working on. And I guess I would be very curious, given that, how all of you on this panel would see using the tools we have to create a Nothing-But-Nets-type of partnership for Zika. Maybe, Dr. Kraus, since you raised this, do you have any thoughts about that?
DR. KRAUS: I think it's important to first define public health. We have personal health. So we can go to the store. We can purchase Off or some creams to repel insects. But public health is really government-based interventions to protect the entire population. It's a formal discipline that goes back about 100 years. It's actually one of the fastest growing academic endeavors across universities in Europe and in the United States. And it's intended to be managed by government entities at federal state local levels, with support from community leaders, to improve and benefit all citizens.
In the United States, about 100-and-some-odd years ago, they created an organization called the American Mosquito Control Association, which is now a network of about 900 local government municipalities who communicate and share ideas and help manage mosquito-transmitted disease. You may remember West Nile virus some 15 years ago. Remember, we thought we're not going to have an issue with a mosquito-transmitted disease. In 2000, out of the Bronx and across the U.S., West Nile virus hit.
Now we have Zika. We're global. We're transmitting. In the U.S., we have an established base for intervention at the government level. Industry, academics, faith leaders, and others are working with those communities. It's wonderful. Europe as well has established the European Mosquito Control Association, dating back to 2000. And just three years ago in 2013, VBC, Sumitomo, a few other companies were involved in creating what's called PAMCA, the Pan-African Mosquito Control Association, to create a platform for discussion and sharing ideas and how to intervene against the vector.
So we have the structure for communicating and sharing ideas. We need more funding. We need some more technology. But at least people are recognizing that public health is not an individual issue. It's a community issue. And if we all band together, we can all make a difference.
UNDERSECRETARY NOVELLI: Thanks, Dr. Kraus. Admiral, did you have some thoughts about this?
REAR ADMIRAL ZIEMER: Yeah, building on what Steve said, let me just reiterate. Let me come at it from a different perspective, building on what Heather Higginbottom and Amy Pope said. I think it's clear to all of us in the room that the most important ingredient of moving anything like this forward is political will and political commitment. The President is fully behind this. He has made a strong appeal to Congress to appropriate the funding.
From a U.S. government perspective, without that political leadership and without the appropriation from Congress, then we're going to just continue to have these kind of discussions. Those are two critical things. Everybody knows that. But we all need to partner together to support the President, the U.S. government's commitment, and encourage, as citizens, the need to appropriate these global requirements.
Secondly, the most important partner, from my perspective, is the country itself. The U.S. government collaborates extremely well. Amy does it every day. USAID leads the President's Malaria Initiative, co-implements with CDC. We are partnering with the Peace Corps and DOD and other U.S. government agencies. We do that quite well. Ok?
To move then outside of the U.S. government and bring in the private sector and the countries themselves, suddenly bring a different challenge-- governance, security, funding, getting the governments to step up to the plate and care just as much about their people as the advocates and those of us in the room. So the country itself, bringing more capacity to them, bringing the existing tools that we have, and then implementing them, as Steve has mentioned. And then sitting in the back is Nick Hamon, who is the CEO of IVCC, a product development partnership, hopefully Nick will be able to amplify during the round table what that organization does, by bringing research, innovation, governments, bureaucracy, roadblocks, and bringing it all together to see how we can work with the private sector and all of these partnership groups, to bring products -- to first of all, identify new products, and then bring them to market.
So that then once they're approved by WHO, implement at the country level as expeditiously as we can. I think all of those things are moving parts that need to be part of this discussion as we move forward today.
UNDERSECRETARY NOVELLI: Thanks so much, Admiral. Rabbi, I'm curious, what -- to engage you and your organization, what is it that you need to be able to grab onto? I think it would be really helpful for people to understand that. We have all these things going, but people can't grab onto it. That's hard.
RABBI PESNER: Yeah, so grateful for the question, because often people see what's attractive about the organized faith community, which is people power and faith power, but don't realize that we're also under-resourced. And so Nothing But Nets made a fairly modest investment in us -- financial-- over nearly a decade. And that relatively small investment, compared to the billions that are spent on global health, have reaped enormous returns, both in actually getting nets delivered to people who need them, but also doing what the Admiral said, which is building the political will.
You now have a significant religious movement in America that cares deeply about malaria and global health. And when, you know, God willing, we've made a lot of progress on this. We'll make more progress. They're also going to be ready for the next thing, because they're engaged in trying to be activists. So partly it's resource allocation.
The major foundations and corporate funders, I think, need to more deeply understand that it's OK to fund the faith community to do some of this work. That just like you would offer grants to NGOs and grants to other mediating institutions, when the organized faith community understands the important separations of church and state and the kind of boundaries of where our work starts and where it stops, and we have a plan, invest in that plan. The other piece of it is an enormous level of trust.
Nothing But Nets, knows -- they understand malaria. They understand what the interventions are that are needed. But we understand our base. We know how to actually organize and mobilize our base. So what we depend on from Nothing But Nets and the other distinguished panelists is the kind of what are the right interventions, what are the right asks, what is the clear messaging, what's the language we need to use, what's going to be the most effective way intervention, and then to trust us to kind of figure out.
We developed a college fellowship because we knew that college students would engage their peers. Nothing But Nets said, great idea. We knew we needed to do a community of practice of rabbis, who would then bring this back to their synagogues. They said, that sounds like a great idea. They understood that when we bring 2,000 high school students to Washington every year, the way in which we were going to engage in program this issue with them, they deferred to our wisdom. So I think it's a combination of investing in us both with the resources and then with the tools and the knowledge, and then trusting us to be the delivery service to how to get that into the hands of our folks.
UNDERSECRETARY NOVELLI: So, Margaret, you were there at the beginning, I think, or almost. And you started with some funds. But how did you build this organization and reach out to all of these different groups and sort of devise the kind of strategy that the rabbi's talking about?
MS. MCDONNELL: So I wasn't there quite in the beginning, but I have been involved for five or so years. And I'd say from the birth of the campaign, in terms of how it was launched, there were some initial founding partners, like the NBA and the United Methodist Church were some of the first partners. From there, and I'll say that it's housed within the United Nations Foundation. And I think the UNF has recognized that partnerships take time, energy, capacity, et cetera, and so there was a real investment in terms of an acknowledgment that we can't do this alone, that we're stronger together. And we need a diverse range of partners. And so we, from there, did reach out to, I think, Orkin was actually one of our first corporate partners, and we identified with them.
I think the key to any is finding the mutually beneficial, right? And so like I said, what is the message that's going to resonate? What is the audience? What does this mean to them? Being able to provide a very tangible, like we said, entry point to be able to recognize as a real tangible impact that you can have in getting involved, investing in the partnership. So whether that's with small grants that enable staff capacity, like at The Rack, to be able to focus on this. Because recognizing many civil society and faith-based groups are stretched thin and have a lot of issues that they could work on. So how do you kind of invest in that?
We actually have an officer dedicated to partnerships, because we know that in terms of the care and feeding and the cultivation is really important. But we did. We identified, and we continue to do this, right? This isn't over. We're always seeking new corporate partnerships. And for us, we think about what corporations or private sector companies would have a strategic interest in this, whether it's, we talk about, actually, safety. We talk about approaching Graco or, you know, any of the children bedding companies.
When you think about a safe night's sleep, how do you approach? So we always try to think also from maternal health perspective. I'm a mom of three young kids imagining making your kids vulnerable to a mosquito bite when you put them to bed at night. So how do we think about that, and what companies are kind of thinking around a safe night's sleep and the importance of maternal and child health and all of that.
So we've tried to get creative in terms of how to approach partners. But, again, recognizing it has to be a mutual interest and mutually beneficial. So in Orkin's case, for example, they donated bed nets for every mosquito service that they provided, and they had a whole employee engagement program.
They launched a competition among employees for, I think, the goal was to raise $500,000. And they matched the programs. And so that helped them because we all know, especially this generation, people want to feel that connection. They want to know that they're doing good, that the organization or company they're part of has an ethos of doing good and service. And so the employee engagement component, I think, is important for private sector. And, yes, so, I think, again, we've really invested in these. And we say from bishops to basketball players, from students to CEOs, we've been able to mobilize a wide range and are really proud of this partnership, so.
UNDERSECRETARY NOVELLI: And how did you partner with [AUDIO OUT]. Nothing But Nets was there in the beginning. How did that partnership play itself out, and how does it continue to do that? Because I think that's also an important component for looking for the future.
MS. MCDONNELL: Sure, this is -- so the advocacy piece has evolved over time. I'd say we actually have an interesting approach. So initially, we really kind of draw people in through fundraising, because that is sort of the most tangible, simple way of understanding. We kind of call it the gateway drug, in terms of, OK, I sent a net and saved a life, or I donated $100 and helped to provide, to ensure that 10 bed nets were able to protect kids.
But through that, we've been able to develop this broad base of supporter [AUDIO OUT] most interested, most engaged, et cetera, and have seen them as real potential spokes-- [AUDIO OUT]. --our programming on refugees and IEPs, because we've noticed that they sort slip between the cracks often and obviously a very mobile population. So we respond to emergencies in addressing those key populations.
But we recognize clearly, if we're focused on the long-term game of elimination, eventual eradication, we need to be advocating for those bigger, larger scale programs that are so effective. And so advocacy sort of grew from that. And so what we do is we train. We actually have what we call the Champions Council, which is around 250 Americans that have been identified as really caring deeply about this issue. They've put their skin in the game, whether they've raised funds through basketball tournaments or bake sales or through -- we actually had one young girl. She was nine years old. She swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco to raise funds. We talk about the Boy Scout who hiked 100 miles to raise awareness and funds. Kids have donated their birthday-- a range of really creative, innovative ways.
So we've taken them, further trained them, provided them with the tools and resources, invested in them, gave them opportunities to come to Capitol Hill to meet with leaders, like Admiral Ziemer, and members of Congress to demonstrate that they can have that much greater impact in terms of when they raise their voice. We're really lucky here in the U.S. We have that unique opportunity. So how do we take advantage of that, and use your platform as a spokesperson who cares about this issue to help push the broader picture, the broader investment that will enable us to truly end this disease once and for all, so.
REAR ADMIRAL ZIEMER: I think it's important to understand that there is a global strategy to end malaria. And there is a global group of partners, which includes business, private sector, governments. Nothing But Nets, we love them, but they're just one of the very many effective private partners. There's Malaria No More. There's the Greater UN Foundation, the Gates Foundation-- multiple partners that engage at the global level and then figure out where they need to fit in to advance the global agenda. And I think that needs to be understood as we move forward.
What Nothing But Nets and Malaria No More can do advocating on the Hill, I cannot do. I'm grateful for the President's budget, and I cheer for that. But what Rabbi Pesner's folks and Nothing But Nets do to advocate, but more significantly build awareness from grassroots up, is significant. And then the fundraising translates to country capacity, country ability, and at the end of the day, more lives are saved and we have healthier communities.
The global malaria strategy dovetails perfectly with the sustainable development goals. So that strategy complements the greater multi-sectoral thing, where vector control, as a critical component of moving this problem forward and solving it, dovetails very nicely. We could go on and on. It's a good story.
UNDERSECRETARY NOVELLI: So just build on that, the global malaria strategy, can you describe for us -- how did a global strategy come about with all these facets?
REAR ADMIRAL ZIEMER: I don't want to monopolize the time, but that's really a good question. If you remember the Millennium Development Goals, for malaria, it was just a 50% reduction in morbidity and mortality, focusing in on pregnant women and kids under five. And that was what President Bush launched the initiative to achieve and President Obama embraced and expanded upon.
The latest report coming out of the World Health Organization said that the global community not only achieved, but exceeded that. So we've seen an overall drop of morbidity and mortality by 60%. Just under 500,000 people a year are still dying from this disease, which is unconscionable. But during the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals, this notion of a malaria-free world suddenly popped up, as what was unconscionable and goofy 10 years ago, was now a goal that could possibly be achieved. And so WHO with the Global Malaria Partnership coming together have actually put in writing a Global Malaria Strategy.
The good news is the U.S. government strategy is consistent, complementary, and most of the country strategies now are also complementary of the global as well as the national and the regional strategies. Maybe more information than you wanted.
UNDERSECRETARY NOVELLI: No, that's, I think, very useful for people, since we're all supposed to be thinking about how do we apply what has succeeded in the past to this new challenge that we have. So I think that's the most important thing. Just last question for everybody, really, is, so what along the way has really been your biggest challenges, and how have you met those? How have you overcome those? I think that would be also a very useful thing for thought for everyone. Since you have the microphone, you want to start?
MS. MCDONNELL: Well, it sort of goes on the Global Malaria Strategy. I think especially when you're talking about mobilizing a broad base and diverse array of partners who aren't scientific and technical and aren't in the malaria world day in and day out, being able to offer them not just the initial tangible opportunity, but the continuous updates in terms of progress that's being made, the stories of people who are being affected or benefited from the work that they're doing, and the milestones-- I think being able to provide very clear milestones in terms of where we're going.
So I think we were all initially, when the campaign was launched, it was really focused on reducing -- ending malaria deaths by 2015, under the guise of the Millennium Development Goals. But frankly, as we sort of moved closer and we saw that we were getting there, but we still have a lot of work to do, I think people starting saying, OK, we're still sending bed nets. What's happening? Where is the progress being made. And so I think the challenge is always in terms of what is that feedback mechanism, the communication that's being keeping people motivated, inspired. Because it is a long-term game.
We're hopeful. Also, that came out last year, the Aspiration to Action Report, calling us to really ambitiously target 2040 as an eradication date for malaria and building out malaria elimination targets along the way, in conjunction with PMI's new strategy and the Global [INAUDIBLE], it provides us with clear milestones to work towards, to mobilize around, so that we can really demonstrate that progress is being made and we're part of a winning fight, while there will be challenges and bumps along the way.
We still don't have a vaccine. That will be, really, the tipping point in terms of ending this disease once and for all. We are making progress. It is worth the investment. And so I think it's been a challenge. But we've gotten more, even just in the last year, in terms of fueling that fight and giving people that inspiration to move forward. And hopefully, we can work together to ensure that no child dies from a mosquito bite, whether that's malaria, Zika, Dengue, chikunkgunya.
I think part of the challenge always in bridging the humanitarian and development divides too and not operating in silos is how are we better integrated and working comprehensively? Because while there are differences between Zika and malaria, of course, there are similarities, and there are some techniques and strategies that are applicable to both. And so how are we better leveraging those to ensure that we're addressing all those diseases, especially in contexts in the Americas, where Zika and malaria are still very active. So.
UNDERSECRETARY NOVELLI: Great. Rabbi?
RABBI PESNER: So three challenges and three sources of inspiration briefly. This is a very far away problem that seems distant. People are really, really busy. And we're under-resourced. So working backwards, again, the investment of building our staff capacity, the part of a staff member who could actually work with our rabbis, our leaders, and then do what you call the multiplier effect was incredibly effective for us.
The feeling so distant and far away was really helped when there was clear action and clear messaging about how to take that action, because then folks saw this distant, faraway problem, and saw a really crisp actionable solution that was effective. And then third and finally, and I would offer this for all of us, because in our own work, we find ourselves overwhelmed by the enormity of these problems, is tapping in to the well of a 5000-year-old religious tradition. I suspect everybody in this room, and all of our stakeholders, have some reservoir of values and spiritual support that undergird the commitment that we make to stay in this fight, even while so many people are suffering in so many parts of the world. The rabbis teach if you save a single life, you've saved an entire world. So for all of us to be able to keep going back to that reservoir of spiritual and values well to draw from and say sustained in this work.
UNDERSECRETARY NOVELLI: Thank you. Dr. Kraus.
DR. KRAUS: I would say the most significant challenge we have is just who we are as individuals. We all have unique job descriptions. So we have individual goals. We have jobs to do. And this is our functionality day in and day out. In public health, you have to bridge across those individual goals and find commonality.
It's difficult to do. You can't force someone into a partnership. You can't force someone into something that's not on their table. When I go into an MLH's office in Cambodia or Africa or elsewhere, I'm coming and talking about malaria or Dengue, whatever it is on my mind. I've learned to ask them, what's your most significant health issue you face? It's probably TB. It could be cholera. It could be something else. So that's where their mind is coming from.
So I think one of the best ways to try and accomplish this common goal is to recognize that we're all very busy. We're all 24/7, seven days a week, et cetera. It's just a very, very busy time. But there's a deep passion, I think, deep down in our soul and in our brains about the goodness of who we are as a species and as a society. And that's what we try and to appeal to, whether it comes from the academic side, or I'm an industry. My industry colleagues here come from the same position.
We're all here not because we have just an interest in vector control or in trying to manage Zika or fly helicopters to control -- it's about the human condition. So I think the best way to overcome those individual job descriptions that face us almost every day is by building partnerships and alliances for common good, so that at least some proportion of our time, whatever percentage that might be for different groups, is represented for a common goal. It worked well with this particular partnership, and I think the same will apply for Zika.
UNDERSECRETARY NOVELLI: That is awesome. Admiral?
REAR ADMIRAL ZIEMER: Three things-- first of all, to acknowledge the significance of our political leadership. The President's commitment to the fight against malaria and infectious disease needs to be recognized and appreciated. The fact that we have strong bipartisan support for global health in the fight against infectious diseases needs to be acknowledged and recognized. The U.S. government has committed resources and technical assistance that's changed the face of the HIV, malaria condition around the world. And we need not to back off on that. We should continue to press towards that progress that's been made.
The challenges-- a shift in political will, a shift in budget, taking our eye off the target, as Steve mentioned. Vector control is what this is all about, particularly when we're talking about Zika. So we've got to continue to look at vector control, new product development. And I think that is the biggest challenge facing us ahead.
But I think the track record has shown that if we have a common goal, if we have a common plan that all of us, as partners, can figure out where we plug in to move the ball down the court, then the notion of having a forum like today, where we all come at this from a different direction to see how we can all contribute as partners to move the ball down the court, this has a lot of value. And I think, to me, that's the spark in what this is all about.
UNDERSECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, thank you all very much. I have to tell you, I am completely inspired by all the work that you're doing. And I have learned a lot myself, and I hope that folks in the audience have a lot of food for thought and this will spark all kinds of creative thinking and partnerships going forward. So thank you to you. And thank you to the audience.