ATLANTA – A successful year for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an uneventful one. Great victories in public health usually involve averted crises and go largely unnoticed. In keeping with that concept, the CDC recently identified five New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 that maximize the agency’s capability to anticipate and mitigate disease disaster.
1. Tackle the escalating epidemic of prescription drug addiction.
Every day, 2,500 young people in the United States experiment with a prescription painkiller for the first time. Since 1990, domestic drug overdose rates have tripled.
Our nation’s affinity for opiates reflects a global pattern of prescription drug abuse. The 2013 World Drug Report estimates that 0.4 percent of the global population, or 16.5 million people, use heroin and opium. Drug trafficking increases organized crime, fuels political instability and raises costs to health care providers.
Afghanistan produced 74 percent of the world’s supply of illicit opium in 2012. The continued withdrawal of U.S. forces from the region in 2014 requires that the World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC collaborate to control opium production and trade, in addition to investing in well-founded interventions for prevention and treatment.
2. Prevent the proliferation of antimicrobial resistant bacteria.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is bacteria’s evolutionary defense mechanism. The successful bacterium that develops immunity to treatment is a physician’s worst nightmare. AMR bacteria are twice as likely to be fatal as non-resistant bacteria, may become untreatable and require expensive surveillance. Tuberculosis and gonorrhea are of particular concern to the CDC in this regard.
To improve identification of potentially threatening bacteria, the CDC has developed a high tech disease detection method using supercomputers and DNA identification that will be fine-tuned in the coming year. Innovation may expose evolving bacteria and allow for treatment changes before resistance fully develops.
3. Prepare for “the perfect storm.”
Globalization has complicated the CDC’s mission. Disease can spread globally in 24 hours, highly evolved microbes are continuously surfacing and biological agents are viable weapons of war. The CDC refers to the combination of these elements as “the perfect storm” of infectious disease.
CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden recently reiterated that “global health and protecting our country go hand in hand.”
CDC plans for strengthening lab systems, training a small army of disease detectives and improving surveillance overseas confirms that the agency is taking Dr. Frieden’s words to heart with national security in mind.
4. Improve disappointing HPV vaccination rates.
79 million Americans currently harbor the human papillomavirus (HPV) and practically all sexually active men and women will contract at least one type of HPV during their lives. Despite the virus’ sky-high prevalence and link to cancer, only about 54 percent of girls and 33 percent of boys in the target age range received at least one dose of the three-dose vaccine.
A recent survey indicates that misinformation, lack of strong recommendations from physicians and uncertainties regarding the vaccine’s impact on sexual behavior contribute to the low vaccination rate. In 2014, the CDC will improve education for parents, physicians and health care providers to eliminate exactly these factors.
5. Stride closer toward polio eradication.
The CDC will allot an additional $15.1 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 2014 in an effort to build upon the successes of recent years. The declaration of India as polio-free in 2012 was a milestone for international health; now Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are the only remaining countries with endemic cases of polio.
2014 funding will expand upon successful strategies from India and support widespread immunization campaigns targeting high-risk areas and the continued use of a bivalent oral vaccine.
– Casey Ernstes