6 Public Health Numbers That Matter in 2024

We face many challenges, but progress is possible — and life saving

Dr. Tom Frieden
3 min readMar 19, 2024
A patient in Nigeria gets their blood pressure measured. Photo: Resolve to Save Lives

The beginning of each year offers a sense of hope, of renewed optimism. Then, we see many of the same challenges — war, climate change, political polarization. But every day is an opportunity to reflect, plan, and act.

Here are six numbers that point to the public health challenges we continue to face — and the progress that’s possible.

16,000+. The number of people in the United States who have died from Covid this year. More than four years after the virus emerged, it continues to sicken and kill, and is now unfortunately another microbe we’ll have to deal with for years to come. But many of these deaths didn’t have to happen. By increasing vaccination and treatment — especially among the elderly — we can save lives.

1.5%. The proportion of U.S. adults who report having significant impairment from long Covid. That’s nearly 5 million people. Vaccination can reduce the risk and severity of long Covid, so stay up to date. And we need much more active research on treatment and management of long Covid to help people struggling with this condition.

20%. Globally, at most only 1 in 5 people with high blood pressure have it under control. In low- and middle-income countries, that number is just 1 in 10. Better hypertension control can save millions of lives each year, as I wrote in a recent Washington Post op-ed — more than any other adult health care intervention.

10 million. The projected gap in health care workers worldwide over the next six years by the World Health Organization (WHO). Although the gap is particularly severe in low- and middle-income countries, the U.S. is not immune. A strong health care workforce is the hallmark of resilience against future health threats. But too often we focus on stuff, not staff. Investments in training, support and resources for health care workers, particularly at the primary health care level, are just as if not more important than shiny new labs or equipment.

3.7 billion. That’s how many people are now protected globally from trans fat, a harmful artificial compound added to the food supply. Trans fat clogs arteries, causing heart attacks, but can easily be replaced with healthier oils. The compound was banned in the United States, and 58 countries (most recently, Nepal) have taken action to eliminate it, but it’s still consumed every day around the world. 2023 was momentous for the global movement to eliminate trans fat, with Egypt, Mexico, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka passing best-practices policies. Earlier this year, WHO recognized five pathfinder countries that have matched policy with monitoring and enforcement and achieved validation of elimination. Every country that hasn’t yet done so can ban trans fat this year.

19.4 million. The number of patients treated for high blood pressure according to the WHO HEARTS technical package in countries around the world, with partnership from our team at Resolve to Save Lives. Nearly 20 million people across 32 lower-income countries are now enrolled in effective hypertension treatment programs, which have more than doubled blood pressure control rates. The WHO HEARTS technical package consists of treatment protocols, reliable access to medications and blood pressure monitors, team-based care, patient centered services, and effective information systems. Governments and health systems can scale up this approach around the world, saving millions of lives.

Each of these numbers represents a life — one that has been or could have been saved. It’s possible to be discouraged by the daily news, but the deeper reality is that we have increasing potential to protect and improve health. Working together, we can make today’s potential become tomorrow’s reality.



Dr. Tom Frieden

President and CEO, Resolve to Save Lives | Former CDC Director and NYC Health Commissioner | Focused on saving lives. twitter.com/drtomfrieden