Michael Bloomberg gives $300 mil­lion to Hop­kins

Gift to ad­dress areas that con­trib­ute to de­cline in U.S. life ex­pectancy

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By An­drea K. McDaniels and Mered­ith Cohn

Busi­ness­man and for­mer New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has given the Johns Hop­kins Bloomberg School of Pub­lic Health $300 mil­lion to fo­cus on five chal­lenges the school’s ex­perts say are con­tribut­ing to a de­cline in Amer­i­cans’ life ex­pectancy.

The gift, which co­in­cides with the school’s 100th an­niver­sary, is the largest do­na­tion ever made to the school, and the first to fo­cus solely on do­mes­tic health chal­lenges, rather than the global ill­nesses, such as HIV and malaria, on which the school has made its mark.

The gift brings Bloomberg’s to­tal do­na­tions to Johns Hop­kins institutions to $1.5 bil­lion. The me­dia mag­nate earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree at the For­mer New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has do­nated a to­tal of $1.5 bil­lion to Johns Hop­kins, his alma mater.

“These are very dif­fi­cult chal­lenges, so this isn’t a project for quick fixes. It is a project that will build over time.”

univer­sity in 1964.

The $300 mil­lion is to fund new fac­ulty po­si­tions and fel­low­ships, re­search and schol­ar­ships as part of the Bloomberg Amer­i­can Health Ini­tia­tive.

The ini­tia­tive is to tar­get drug ad­dic­tion, obe­sity, gun vi­o­lence, ado­les­cent health and en­vi­ron­men­tal threats — chal­lenges now un­der­stood as pub­lic health prob­lems that are killing and sick­en­ing peo­ple around the coun­try.

One major part of the ini­tia­tive is a planned net­work of com­mu­nity groups to share data and strate­gies. Or­ga­niz­ers plan to spend $100 mil­lion for 50 pub­lic health fel­lows from such groups to earn master’s de­grees in pub­lic health at the school and take what they learn back to their com­mu­ni­ties.

Their groups will be­come part of the net­work, to grow each year.

“By spread­ing smart pub­lic health strate­gies that save lives and bring­ing peo­ple to­gether to try new ap­proaches, we can make the same strides in the 21st cen­tury against health threats like air pol­lu­tion, gun vi­o­lence, and obe­sity that we did in the 20th cen­tury against po­lio and other in­fec­tious dis­eases,” Bloomberg said in a state­ment.

Univer­sity Pres­i­dent Ron­ald J. Daniels said the ap­proach could trans­form re­sponses to pub­lic health chal­lenges.

“It sig­ni­fies a recog­ni­tion of the mon­u­men­tal pub­lic health chal­lenge we face in this coun­try and the role the Bloomberg School of Pub­lic Health can play in ad­dress­ing it,” he said.

Or­ga­niz­ers plan to spend $125 mil­lion on 25 fac­ulty po­si­tions and re­search in the fo­cus areas and $75 mil­lion to es­tab­lish schol­ar­ships for those en­ter­ing the school’s new doc­toral pro­gram in pub­lic health.

A bi­en­nial pub­lic health sum­mit will bring fel­lows, fac­ulty and part­ner or­ga­ni­za­tions to­gether to share find­ings and pro­pos­als.

While much of the re­search is to be done in Bal­ti­more, or­ga­niz­ers said, the ini­tia­tive will span the coun­try.

“We will not be able to work in all the cities in the U.S. and all the states,” said Dr. Michael J. Klag, dean of the Bloomberg School. “What we hope to do is pick part­ners, be very ef­fec­tive and de­velop mod­els where other cities and other states can do the same things. And by do­ing that have oth­ers im­i­tate us.”

Klag said re­cent crises na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing the water con­tam­i­na­tion in Flint, Mich., and the un­rest that fol­lowed the death of Fred­die Gray in Bal­ti­more, have re­in­forced the need to ad­dress the topics that the Bloomberg School will tackle.

“These are very dif­fi­cult chal­lenges, so this isn’t a project for quick fixes,” said for­mer Mary­land Health Sec­re­tary Joshua M. Sharf­stein, who helped put to­gether the ini­tia­tive. “It is a project that will build over time and hope­fully re­sult in new un­der­stand­ing and so­lu­tions.”

Maria DiMento, a staff writer with the Chron­i­cle of Phi­lan­thropy, said Bloomberg seems to be alone in ty­ing his do­na­tion to fall­ing life ex­pectancy in the United States.

“He’s the only per­son who seems to be di­rectly ad­dress­ing [that] with a gift,” she said. “He’s re­ally fo­cus­ing on the United States when so many other big ini­tia­tives aim to tackle prob­lems that are global.”

Dr. Ge­orges Ben­jamin, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Amer­i­can Pub­lic Health As­so­ci­a­tion, said the in­vest­ment is sig­nif­i­cant at a time when re­search fund­ing is shrink­ing and the pub­lic health em­ployee pool is aging.

“It is one of the few real se­ri­ous in­vest­ments we have had in this coun­try to a pub­lic health school to in­vest in the idea of re­ally building ca­pac­ity,” Ben­jamin said. “It will go right to the heart of some of the core prob­lems we have in our com­mu­ni­ties.”

Bloomberg served as chair­man of the Johns Hop­kins board of trustees from 1996 to 2000 and has chaired the Johns Hop­kins Ini­tia­tive fundrais­ing cam­paign. The school of pub­lic health was re­named for Bloomberg in 2001, and the chil­dren’s cen­ter that opened in 2012 was named for his mother.

There have been more than a half-dozen do­na­tions to uni­ver­si­ties of $100 mil­lion or more so far this year, ac­cord­ing to DiMento, in­clud­ing two do­na­tions of $400 mil­lion.

“Three hun­dred mil­lion isn’t un­usual these days,” she said. “But the $1.5 bil­lion fig­ure Hop­kins says is the cu­mu­la­tive amount given to Johns Hop­kins since [Bloomberg] grad­u­ated, I think that is un­usual. I think it’s prob­a­bly rare that one U.S. donor has given that much money to their alma mater, but it’s re­ally dif­fi­cult to get at su­perla­tives. …

“I can say the $1.5 bil­lion in do­na­tions is some­thing special and un­usual. It seems ev­ery few years he gives one to sev­eral hun­dred mil­lion to [Hop­kins].”

The $300 mil­lion dwarfs gifts to other lo­cal med­i­cal institutions.

The largest gift to Si­nai Hospi­tal was in 1989, $15 mil­lion from the Harry and Jeanette Wein­berg Foun­da­tion. In 2013, Peter An­ge­los an­nounced a $2.5 mil­lion gift to MedS­tar Franklin Square Med­i­cal Cen­ter, the largest in the hospi­tal’s his­tory, to open the An­ge­los Cen­ter for Lung Dis­eases.

Dr. Joshua M. Sharf­stein, for­mer Mary­land health sec­re­tary

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