June 3, 2007
Dr. Bill Frist, the former Senate majority leader who left office in January, will re-emerge on the national scene in the coming weeks with two initiatives focused on using global health as a way to promote peace.
One is a major push to improve the survival rates of children and their mothers in the poorest parts of the world, and the other involves working with rock star and philanthropist Bono to inject global health care into the U.S. presidential race.
Frist discusses this new chapter in his life.
Question: What is the focus of your current work?
Answer: For the foreseeable future, I am going to dedicate a very significant part of my time on the issues of global health and using health as the currency of peace.
Q: How does that work?
A: I want to inject global health as a major, fundamental part of U.S. public diplomacy around the world and to help people understand that health diplomacy can be an important part of our national security and clearly can contribute to a better understanding of the U.S. in world opinion. Instead of having an imperial U.S., we have a caring U.S.
The concept of having an ongoing dialogue based on trust sets the stage for resolution of conflict using inspiration instead of intimidation. In places like Africa, instability breeds hopelessness and hopelessness breeds extremism.
Q: How does your trip to Russia last month, where you co-hosted a health conference, fit into that?
A: This was the first major foray of that effort (through his involvement with the Center for Strategic and International Studies).
Russia is moving away from the U.S. politically. I think that our health relationships there — our partnering, our exchange of physicians — will establish and promote ties between our two countries that will be very beneficial even if our political ties begin to have more tension associated with them.
Q: What other plans do you have?
A: Globally, about 38,000 kids die each day, and two-thirds of those are totally preventable by 2015 — through vaccination, through oral re-hydration and through vitamins.
I will spend Tuesday with Save the Children (a Connecticut-based world charity). I will run a large global project for them on infant and maternal mortality. We haven't unfolded that yet.
Q: How will you be involved in the presidential race?
A: The presidential initiative is with the One Campaign, Bono's campaign (against poverty). In early June, we will unfold the One presidential campaign.
That will be an initiative to encourage people to elect candidates who have an understanding of the global health, of clean water, of education around the world of young girls, of poverty eradication and hunger — those five things.
What we'll do is educate each of the Republicans and Democrats in a nonpartisan way, making sure the candidates have a full understanding of the richness of these issues.