As he prepares to leave office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden shared with us his hopes for the future of public health and the challenges that still lie ahead. Throughout his seven-and-a-half year tenure, Frieden has led CDC’s efforts to address a wide array of public health issues – from fighting infectious disease outbreaks, to tackling the opioid crisis, to protecting public health funding. In his fifth annual “State of Public Health” for Public Health Newswire, Frieden discusses CDC’s successes and what’s next for the agency.
Q: What were some of CDC’s greatest accomplishments this past year, and what do you anticipate being the biggest public health challenges for 2017?
A: CDC works 24/7 to protect the health, safety and security of Americans. Given space limitations, it’s not possible to provide a comprehensive list of everything we did to protect the nation’s health this year, but a few highlights include:
- Led responses to some of the most serious health threats facing the United States and the world. We stopped the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, dedicated tremendous resources to lead the fight against Zika in the U.S. and its territories, and released guidelines to curb the ongoing epidemic of opiate overdoses. With our partners in clinical medicine, agriculture and public health, we continue to address the serious threat posed by antimicrobial resistance.
- Restoring America’s public health infrastructure. CDC’s Advanced Molecular Detection initiative is rapidly improving our national and state labs’ ability to identify infectious disease threats through cutting-edge gene sequencing and bioinformatics technology. Our Public Health Associate Program fills gaps in public health agencies in the U.S. and provides on-the-job training to the next generation of public health experts. And CDC’s laboratory safety initiative – including the Laboratory Leadership Service training program – ensures the safety of our work with the world’s deadliest pathogens.
- Protected America’s health security by improving health security abroad. CDC’s leadership role implementing the Global Health Security Agenda began with strengthening outbreak detection and response and laboratory capacity in 17 nations. In many parts of the world, CDC’s Field Epidemiology Training Program continues to establish a global workforce of disease detectives. And CDC continues to be a significant driver of the U.S. government’s fight against HIV/AIDS. Of the 17 million people worldwide now receiving life-saving antiretroviral treatment, 5.8 million are in programs supported by CDC.