The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number

Public health connects us all, and involves protecting the health and safety of our communities, our workforce, and the world. Individuals that develop significant new ideas, programs, innovations, and policies to improve public health should be recognized for their achievements.

Since 1992, the James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation has honored individuals who have made such contributions. Recipients have been recognized annually through The Fries Prize for Improving Health, a $60,000 prize, and the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award, a $25,000 prize. To build upon this effort, Dr. James (Jim) Fries today announced that he and his wife, Sarah, will provide an endowment to the CDC Foundation for management and administration of the public health awards program going forward. The transition to the CDC Foundation will be completed by the end of 2015.

Jim is a successful physician and researcher, and his work on various chronic diseases and on seniors going through the aging process has been groundbreaking. In addition, Jim and Sarah experienced great success with Healthtrac, the tailored health-improvement company they founded in the 1980s and where Sarah served as president and CEO for 16 years.

FriesJim and Sarah have contributed considerable personal gifts toward improving human health. Jim came up with the idea for the Fries Prize in a 1987 ascent of Nepal’s Makalu—one of the world’s highest peaks—when his party became trapped in a severe snowstorm that threatened the lives of everyone in the group. Following that experience, Jim returned to sea level and set about establishing a foundation to support a Nobel-like prize for health that would annually award $60,000 to an individual judged by an expert panel to have done the greatest good for the greatest number in the field of health.

I have personally known Jim and Sarah for more than 10 years, and I can tell you that they are committed to making the world a better, healthier place. So I’m very proud of this new role the CDC Foundation will play to continue recognizing important contributions to public health, and to encourage others to emulate these accomplishments. I also want to congratulate Charles H. Hennekens, M.D., Dr.P.H., who was awarded the 2013 Fries Prize for Improving Health in ceremonies today at CDC. Dr. Hennekens is credited as the first researcher to discover that aspirin helps prevent heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular deaths.

Charles Stokes is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.