ABC News today announced a yearlong project to focus attention on the diseases and health conditions that disproportionately afflict the world's poorest people. The series, "Be the Change: Save a Life," will kick off in December and continue throughout 2011. Led by "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer and ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser, the series will include reporting from all ABC News anchors across all broadcasts and platforms.
An ABC News website for "Be the Change: Save a Life" will be devoted to gathering stories, offering solutions, and acting as a clearing-house for people who want to know more, get involved, or volunteer.
ABC News will invest more than $4.5 million in the series, covering personnel and production. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is giving a $1.5 million grant that will specifically help fund overseas travel and foreign production costs. As with all reporting and sponsorships, ABC News has complete editorial control over the content of the series.
"We are, as always, committed to in-depth reporting on the global issues that matter to our audience -- and health is a topic that touches every human being in the world," said ABC News President David Westin. "Support from the Gates Foundation will help us, literally, go that extra mile; we can cover the stories that ABC News is passionate about, stories that will connect our American audience with the struggles and solutions of families and doctors all over the planet, from Africa to South America to Asia. And, even more important, we can offer people the opportunity to get involved and truly save a life."
A story may not be able to change the world, but it can inspire the world to change.
Inadequate newborn care, malaria, polio, HIV, tuberculosis and a lack of critical vaccines still kill millions of people in developing countries every year. Experts say these are real challenges, but there are also innovative, creative solutions that can save lives -- today.
"When I arrived at World News, one of our conversations was about focusing attention on global health, and what works, particularly for children around the world," Sawyer explained. "We have a bulging folder of ideas and reports on what can be accomplished, often with little or no money."
"We believe that great storytelling can inform decisions that could help to save lives," said Kate James, chief communications officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "ABC News has a tremendous history of reporting on important stories from the poorest regions of the world, and we are excited to be a catalyst to help make sure these stories are told."
Besser, a pediatrician who joined ABC after 13 years at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has devoted much of his career to public health. "Global health is a medical frontier that needs everyone's attention. It's a privilege to be able to direct that attention to where it's so desperately needed," he said.
"If we're doing our jobs right, it will become bigger than just a story on one of our programs or our website. We're all here to inform our audience about subjects that will truly matter to them -- and start the kind of national conversation that can really change things," Besser concluded.