Bill Theobald
September 11, 2007
Gannett News Service

Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced he will head a years-long global project to save the lives of millions children who die each year because of a lack of cheap medicines or simple medical care.

Frist, who has taken on several projects related to world health since he left the Senate in January, was named chairman of Survive to 5, a new program of the Save the Children charity.

Frist said the project will last three to four years and that he chose it because "it will have the greatest global impact."

About 28,000 children in poor countries die each day, and two- thirds of those deaths are easily preventable, the heart surgeon said.

The announcement came Thursday evening during Save the Children's 75th anniversary gala in New York City and after Frist returned from a nine-day trip to Bangladesh.

There, he toured efforts by Save the Children to provide some of these simple medicines and services -- at one point administering vitamin A to malnourished babies.

Other steps the project will undertake include:

  • Distributing $5 bed nets treated with insecticide to prevent malaria.
  • Providing vaccines that cost $17 per child.
  • Giving pregnant woman basic prenatal and post birth care. A course of two visits before and two visits after birth can have a huge impact, Frist said.

The project has no specific numerical goals, either in raising money or saving lives. Frist said he would be soliciting help from governments and corporations.

The announcement comes on top of Frist co-chairing ONE Vote '08, a program unveiled in June to promote global health and hunger as important issues during the presidential campaign season.

He also joined with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, co-hosting a health conference in Russia in May.