CDC Readies for 21st Century Health Threats

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Press Release

For Immediate Release April 21, 2005 Contact: CDC Media Relations 404-639-3286

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken a landmark step in reorganization. The reorganization, which includes the creation of four new coordinating centers and two national offices, will help CDC more efficiently and effectively deal with 21st-century health threats.

Following notification by the Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, the Congress accepted CDC's new strategic orientation, making it official today. "Transforming our healthcare system to help Americans live longer, healthier and better lives is our challenge in the 21st Century," Secretary Leavitt said. "CDC has taken a bold step to face that challenge. CDC is transforming itself by breaking down artificial walls between its scientists, eliminating redundancies, and strengthening collaboration with partners."

The new structure includes the creation of four new coordinating centers and two new national centers. The new coordinating centers are:

  • The Coordinating Center for Environmental Health and Injury Prevention
  • The Coordinating Center for Health Promotion
  • The Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases
  • The Coordinating Center for Health Information and Services
  • The National Center for Public Health Informatics, which applies computer and information sciences to achieve public health outcomes and is vital in translating scientific data into usable information.
  • The National Center for Health Marketing, which will use research and science to develop messages that help Americans make sound health decisions.

CDC is also announcing today the selection of Dr. Henry Falk as the director of the Coordinating Center for Environmental Health and Injury Prevention; Dr. Donna F. Stroup as the director of the Coordinating Center for Health Promotion; and Dr. Mitchell L. Cohen as the director of the Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases.

"CDC is now a 21st-century agency ready for the challenges of 21st-century health threats," said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. "Any corporation or large organization will tell you, realignments are typically tough to achieve. The exciting part is the payoffs we're already seeing as we emerge from this initiative as a modern, flexible, goal-oriented agency."

The new structure better aligns CDC to achieve these goals. With the new coordinating centers, CDC's scientists are better able to share their expertise to solve public health problems, emergencies or not; streamline the flow of information for leadership decision-making; and better leverage the expertise of partners.

"Sound science and a functional organizational structure at CDC are vital to the credibility of the entire public health system," explained George E. Hardy, Jr., MD, MPH, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. "The importance of that credibility and the vital contributions of each of the three partners - local, state, and federal - in the public health system, was dramatically demonstrated earlier this year in the reallocation of scarce influenza vaccine to high risk individuals. This was real public health in action."

When the nation faced a sudden flu vaccine shortfall this flu season, CDC, sister agencies and the public health community quickly cataloged hundreds of response tasks that needed doing and speed was critical to nearly every one of them. Working together on this shortfall provided important lessons to prepare for the possibility of an avian influenza outbreak.

The agency is changing to meet 21st century challenges such as new technology, complex information flow, and rising health-care costs. Change also includes modernizing its management and accountability to realize tangible savings that can go directly to science and programs that affect people's health. For example, CDC reallocated more than 600 open positions from administrative tasks to direct research and program activity positions - such as epidemiologists, medical officers, and laboratorians. CDC also reduced administrative costs by more than $83 million and made these resources available for frontline projects that directly benefit health. Finally, CDC will save $35 million over 7 years and improve its customer service by consolidating 40 separate information hotlines into a single hotline.

CDC's job is to protect lives and improve health. CDC's two overarching goals are to prepare for terrorist health threats and, at the same time, protect the health and quality of life across the entire lifespan of all Americans - from reducing perinatal problems such as low birth weight to preventing heart disease and stroke in older Americans. Goals for the modernizing of CDC emphasize specific activities that will truly protect people's health at every stage of life. Goals also focus on improving health and safety in the places people live, work, and play. CDC's focus on preparedness ensures the health and safety of Americans against old and new threats whether natural or manmade.

"Today's milestone means we can now move from planning and trying out ideas to settling into the new way of doing business," CDC's Chief Operating Officer Bill Gimson said. During the last major transformation a quarter century ago, CDC had 4,000 employees and a budget of approximately $300 million. Today, CDC's combined workforce (employees and contractors) is approximately 15,000 with a budget of about $8 billion.

"The compassionate, scientific core of CDC remains the same. The changes add greater agility and accountability," said Gerberding. "We have transformed CDC into a learning organization. We learn as we go and what we learn we apply quickly. What CDC has learned is paying dividends today and will continue to as we confront the health threats of the future."

For more information about CDC's readiness, visit: www.cdc.gov.

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