Patch Staff Report
The Centers for Disease Controland Prevention’s job is to detect health threats, stop outbreaks, and prevent illness and injury. As 2013 comes to a close America’s health protection agency looks back at top five health concerns in 2013 and previews the five health threats that loom for 2014.
CDC’s most important achievements in 2013 are the outbreaks that didn’t happen, the diseases that were stopped before they crossed our borders, and the countless lives saved from preventable chronic diseases and injuries.
“While our biggest successes may be the bad things that did not happen, careful assessment of what we did well – and what we might do better – is essential for continued success,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said in a news release.
CDC’s top accomplishments included the life-saving Tips tobacco education campaign; a pilot study supporting the technologies and methods of the proposed Advanced Molecular Detection(AMD) initiatives; the Million Hearts® Initiative to prevent a million heart attacks; progress in curbing healthcare-associated infections; and contributions to the U.S. President’s Plan for Emergency AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which prevented the one millionth baby from being infected with HIV.
However, much more needs to be done. CDC sounded the alarm about the potential loss of antibiotic protection from bacterial infections, the slow uptake of the anti-cancer human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, the growing epidemic of prescription opiate addiction, the perfect storm of emerging infectious disease threats, and the final push for global polio eradication.
CDC’s 2013 accomplishments include:
- Demonstrations that new AMD technologies and methods can detect outbreaks sooner, stop them faster, and prevent them better. Through piloting AMD technologies and methods, the use of whole-genome sequencing allowed CDC to quickly track and trace a Listeria outbreak from contaminated cheese.
- Progress in efforts to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes:
- Tips from Former Smokers ads increased calls to quitlines far beyond CDC’s ambitious goals.
- With CDC support, the FDA published its tentative determination that partially hydrogenated oils – the primary source of dietary trans-fat -- is not “generally recognized as safe.” Its removal from the food supply could save up to 7,000 lives and prevent up to 20,000 heart attacks a year.
- CDC learned from providers around the country about how to improve blood pressure control, and is now working with federal, state, and local partners to scale up effective approaches.
A major CDC priority in the year ahead is to improve America’s ability to detect diseases, both at home and abroad, before they become widespread outbreaks. AMD – the use of super computers and forensic DNA identification of infectious agents – is a key part of this effort. Improved AMD will enable faster and more effective infectious disease prevention and control.
“Investment in world-class technology is a wise investment in U.S. health security,” Dr. Frieden said. “American lives, and America’s economic stability depend on CDC quickly detecting and fighting superbugs.”
Technology is only one of the tools needed for global health security. CDC and its partners are building a global health security infrastructure that can be scaled up to deal with multiple emerging health threats.
Currently, only 1 in 5 countries can rapidly detect, respond to, or prevent global health threats caused by emerging infections. Improvements overseas, such as strengthening surveillance and lab systems, training disease detectives, and building facilities to investigate disease outbreaks can make the world -- and the United States -- more secure.
“There may be a misconception that infectious diseases are over in the industrialized world. But in fact, infectious diseases continue to be, and will always be, with us. Global health and protecting our country go hand in hand,” Dr. Frieden said.
Today’s health security threats come from at least five sources:
- The emergence and spread of new microbes
- The globalization of travel and food supply
- The rise of drug-resistant pathogens
- The acceleration of biological science capabilities and the risk that these capabilities may cause the inadvertent or intentional release of pathogens
- Continued concerns about terrorist acquisition, development, and use of biological agents.
“With patterns of global travel and trade, disease can spread nearly anywhere within 24 hours,” Dr. Frieden said. “That’s why the ability to detect, fight, and prevent these diseases must be developed and strengthened overseas, and not just here in the United States.”
In addition to being crucial for global health security, AMD is a key element in one of CDC’s priority initiatives for 2014: combatting the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Several multidrug-resistant superbugs already threaten a throwback to the pre-antibiotic era.
CDC, located at 1600 Clifton Road in Atlanta, is the nation's health protection agency, working 24/7 to protect America from health and safety threats, both foreign and domestic. CDC increases the health security of our nation.
Information in this story was provided by the CDC and edited for publication.