Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter Receives CDC Foundation Hero Award

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will receive the 2012 CDC Foundation Hero Award at a ceremony tonight at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC Foundation is honoring President Carter for three decades of visionary leadership focused on building international public-private partnerships to save lives, reduce suffering and provide hope for millions of the world’s poorest people, as well as for his commitment to achieving a more peaceful and healthy world for us all.

After the eradication of smallpox was certified in 1980, CDC suggested that eradication of Guinea worm disease — transmitted only through contaminated drinking water — was achievable. In 1986, The Carter Center became the lead organization in the international effort to eradicate the disease, and since the disease has been reduced by more than 99 percent.

President Carter rallied support to eradicate Guinea worm disease country-by-country, inspiring top political leaders and village elders. Prevention efforts, made possible largely through international public-private partnerships, focus on education and improving access to safe drinking water. Village volunteers are the backbone of the program: they identify and contain cases, treat patients, distribute filters, and educate communities.

"President Carter’s vision and leadership have improved health, reduced suffering, and increased the security of millions of people throughout the world," says Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC Director. "We at CDC are privileged to partner with President Carter and The Carter Center on many health initiatives that build hope for so many every day.  President Carter’s commitment and drive have made it possible for countless people worldwide to live long, healthy, and productive lives."

Guinea worm disease once affected an estimated 3.5 million people in 21 countries. In 2011 there were fewer than 1,100 cases in four African countries. In 2012, partners expect to report fewer than 600 cases. Guinea worm disease is on track to become the second human disease ever to be eradicated.

The Carter Center also collaborates with CDC and other international partners on efforts to eliminate river blindness and lymphatic filariasis (also known as elephantiasis), and to control the spread of malaria, schistosomiasis and trachoma. CDC and The Carter Center have made substantial progress toward elimination of river blindness in the Americas.

"We are honored to recognize President Carter for his dedication and leadership toward the eradication of Guinea worm disease, which is an amazing testament to the power of public health and the power of partnership," says Charles Stokes, CDC Foundation president and CEO. "President Carter truly exemplifies the mission of CDC: to protect people and save lives from health, safety and security threats."

President Carter was awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.

First presented in 2005, the CDC Foundation Hero Award recognizes an individual's significant contribution to improving the public’s health through exemplary work in advancing CDC’s mission of promoting health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury and disability.

Previous recipients include:

  • Barbara Barlow, M.D., founder and executive director of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids
  • Michael Jacobson, Ph.D., co-founder and executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest
  • William Foege, M.D., M.P.H., senior fellow of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and former CDC director
  • Paul Farmer, M.D., Ph.D., founding director of Partners In Health
  • Sir Michael Marmot, M.B.B.S., M.P.H., Ph.D., F.R.C.P., F.F.P.H.M., FMedSci, director of the University College London International Institute for Society and Health and MRC Research Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health
  • Raymond J. Baxter, Ph.D., senior vice president for community benefit for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals
  • The Honorable Rudy Giuliani, 107th Mayor of New York City

Established by Congress, the CDC Foundation helps the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do more, faster, by forging effective partnerships between CDC and corporations, foundations and individuals to support CDC's 24/7 work to fight threats to health and safety. The CDC Foundation manages approximately 200 CDC-led programs in the United States and in countries around the world. For more information, please visit