Congratulations to Lex Frieden, 2017 Fries Prize for Improving Health Recipient

Today Americans with disabilities lead much more independent lifestyles thanks to the work of Dr. Lex Frieden. Dr. Frieden has made it his life mission to improve the quality of life for so many people with disabilities. Yesterday I was honored to attend the Fries Prize for Improving Health award ceremony where they recognized Dr. Frieden as the 2017 recipient for being an architect of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and a catalyst in the worldwide disability rights and independent living movements.

In presenting the award to Dr. Frieden, Judy Monroe, MD, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation, noted that Dr. Frieden has spent decades fighting for equal opportunity and civil rights for people with disabilities and that his advocacy, research and leadership have contributed to a better world.

Without question, the ADA has made a profound difference in the lives of those who have disabilities by providing better access to buildings, transportation, employment, and creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities to work, play and provide a larger contribution within their communities.

In a letter sent to the CDC Foundation from President George H.W. Bush, President Bush stated “The Prize Jury and the CDC Foundation officials have chosen very well. Lex has made it his life’s mission to make equal opportunity for persons with disabilities a cherished principle in the United States. This good man is an inspiration and, indeed, a hero to millions and is most worthy of this high honor.”

The Fries Prize for Improving Health ceremony took place at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) annual meeting in Atlanta. The Fries Prize for Improving Health recognizes an individual who has made major accomplishments in health improvement with emphasis on recent contributions to health in the United States and with the general criteria of the greatest good for the greatest number.

In his remarks, Dr. Frieden spoke about current and future challenges for the disabled population, and he encouraged attendees at the APHA meeting to focus on three issues. First, he emphasized the need to address the lack of health care services for the disabled. Second, he stressed concentrating on the pending influx of aging baby boomers who will become disabled as part of the aging process. And, third, he underscored the importance of establishing plans to meet the needs of the disabled during emergencies, such as the flooding in Dr. Frieden’s hometown of Houston following Hurricane Harvey.

The CDC Foundation is honored to partner with the James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation to present the Fries Prize for Improving Health and the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award, presented annually in the spring. This year marked the first presentation of the Fries Prize since the death of Sarah Fries in May, but her legacy lives on through the Fries Prize for Improving Health and in the work of honorees, like Dr. Frieden.

Congratulations to Dr. Frieden for this well-deserved recognition!


Dee Dee Honaman is the director of special projects and Fries Prize administrator for the CDC Foundation.