ABC News Health Series ‘Be the Change: Save a Life’ Kicking Off December 17

By Alex Weprin 

The year-long ABC News health series “Be the Change: Save a Life” will kick off December 17, the network announced. The series made news when it was announced back in October because it was revealed that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would be chipping in $1.5 million to offset the production costs.

The first installment of the series will be a special edition of “20/20” anchored by Diane Sawyer, which will air at 10 PM ET Dec. 17. Future installments will run through 2011.

ABC News is also launching a website,, the same day. The network says it “will act as a clearing-house for global health information.”

More information after the jump.

“Be the Change: Save a Life”

ABC News Kicks-Off Year-Long Global Health Series Friday December 17th
with Reports Across all Broadcasts & Platforms

A Special Edition of “20/20” Anchored by Diane Sawyer Highlights the World’s Top Global Health Issues and Gives the Audience Simple Ways to Make A Difference

ABC News Launches a Dedicated Website

On Friday, December 17, ABC News begins a year-long odyssey – covering a story that spans the world; challenging Americans to save untold lives. “Be the Change: Save a Life” sets out on a journey across three continents and into nine countries, focused on the health conditions endured by the poorest of the poor – and some of the innovations that may be able to save them.

“Be the Change: Save a Life” debuts with a day of reporting across all ABC News broadcasts and platforms and includes a special edition of “20/20” titled “Be the Change: Save a Life” anchored by Diane Sawyer at 10pm ET on Friday, December 17th.

From pregnant mothers to newborns, children and adults, the day of programming will examine six of the world’s top health problems, and share simple and practical ways the audience can make an immediate difference.

  • Diane Sawyer compares a maternity ward at a medical center in Brooklyn to one in Afghanistan, which has the highest rate of maternal death in the world.  Medicine easily accessible in the US could save up to one-third of the women who are dying there each year.
  • Elizabeth Vargas reports from India, where nearly 2 million die each year before they reach the age of five.  Innovative programs are keeping infants alive: a portable baby warmer created by four American grad students and a bold new entrepreneurial approach creating specialized maternity hospitals in slums.
  • Dr. Richard Besser, former acting head of the CDC and ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor, returns to Dhaka, Bangladesh, where he worked 20 years ago.  What American mothers take for granted — clean water from a tap, doesn’t exist there.  In Bangladesh 55,000 kids die each year from diseases caused by contaminated water. Besser tests “clean” water from the black market– and finds deadly e. Coli.
  • Chris Cuomo goes on a search for clean water in the jungles of the Central African Republic.   A new charity started by a former New York City nightclub promoter is pulling in celebrity sponsors like Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, he came up with a clever concept: donate your birthday money to drilling a well and turn on the tap for a tribe that might otherwise disappear.
  • Christiane Amanpour reports from two hemispheres — remote villages of Guatemala and Niger, Africa — areas suffering from what USAID has labeled “the world’s most serious health problem”, severe malnutrition.  Lack of nourishing food in the first 1000 days of life can leave children undersized, with cognitive problems that will limit their success throughout their lives.  Twelve-year-olds are the size of American five-year-olds.  The problem is chronic – but solutions are within reach.
  • Deborah Roberts visits a place called the Kingdom in the Sky. She holds on for dear life as the Lesotho Pony Program races down a 10,000 foot mountain to deliver a blood test to a clinic within 6 hours. If he makes it, a diagnosis and medicine is brought back to the village at the top of a mountain.  It’s an innovative solution to stop HIV positive mothers from passing the virus to their newborns.  In the part of the world with the highest rate of HIV /AIDS, it’s a push to give a new generation a chance to dodge the disease.
  • Dan Harris, in Cambodia, finds that a disease the west has eradicated, Tuberculosis, is still a worldwide killer, with more than 9 million new cases a year.  A new machine, whose original designs came from the Pentagon and was further developed by a California company,  may now hold a critical key – it can diagnose TB in two days, instead of the standard two weeks, so doctors can quickly administer the drugs that will save lives.
  • Jay Schadler finds himself with a team of camels – part of a medical camel caravan trekking through the nomadic Samburu region of Kenya.  With non-existent roads, it’s a novel approach to reach the most remote communities, where there are no doctors and no modern medicine.  He sees for the first time a new solar-powered refrigerator, which may deliver via camel, temperature sensitive vaccines where electricity can’t go.

“Good Morning America,” “World News with Diane Sawyer,” “Nightline,” and ABC News Radio will all feature “Be the Change: Save a Live” in their programs on Friday, December 17th.  “This Week with Christiane Amanpour” will continue with more of her reporting on the issue of malnutrition: including an examination of US food policy and its impact on America’s ability to help the countries and people that need it most on Sunday, December 19th.

As part of the ABC News initiative, a dedicated website,, will premier the same night.   For the next year, it will act as a clearing-house for global health information.  Viewers who want to know more and get involved will find ways, large and small, to make a difference in their own communities and around the world.  The site will provide unique content from ABC News reporters around the globe as they report through the year. will simultaneously present a World Health page featuring the global reporting of all the correspondents, alongside a rich archive of global health coverage from the ABC News medical unit. The coverage will include a vast library of videos from all the ABC News broadcasts and original text pieces from the medical unit.