The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an integral player in making the United States and the world safer and healthier. In his article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Dr. Thomas Frieden, former CDC director, summarizes the major initiatives, achievements and findings from his eight years leading the CDC and addresses goals for the coming years.
[Photo: Dr. Thomas Frieden]
One of CDC’s main objectives is to protect Americans from potential health threats. Dr. Frieden comments on CDC’s response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic, noting that large scale distribution of vaccines prevented over 1 million cases of influenza. He also illustrates the importance of coordinating and working with international agencies to strengthen global response mechanisms in the face of outbreaks as seen in CDC’s commitment to confronting global emergencies, including Ebola and the Zika epidemic.
CDC has actively contributed to the future of the U.S. public health system by both increasing surveillance and allocating funding to state and local health departments. Advances in technologies have allowed for improved data quality, timeliness and dissemination. Despite improvements—such as the development of PulseNet and electronic sharing of large quantities of information—Dr. Frieden highlights the need for further efforts to present data in formats that are easy to use and analyze.
The CDC’s “winnable battles,” articulated in 2010, range from improving motor vehicle safety to reducing tobacco use, and have realized considerable progress toward target goals as well as new challenges and obstacles to face in achieving these aims. For instance, while cigarette smoking rates continue to decline, e-cigarettes may pose additional dangers, and high rates of opioid prescriptions are leading to new addictions. Similarly, Dr. Frieden explains how collaborations with multiple health agencies have led to improvements in cardiovascular health, but barriers remain for further advances.
While CDC has undoubtedly accomplished much in the past few years, new disease-related goals are being set, new policy initiatives are being formed, and health of the population remains a top national priority. In the context of an increasingly global community, CDC’s partnerships with local and international entities remain essential for continued success in fighting and preventing disease and injury in the U.S. and around the world as does their commitment to training the next generation of leaders in public health to ensure the continued improvement of health in our country.
Dr. Frieden concludes his article with a powerful statement about what lies ahead for CDC: “Future progress will require rapid emergency responses and effective communication, policy decisions that prioritize maximizing health, and maintenance of CDC’s scientific independence.”