CDC's 10 most important public health challenges of 2014

In a year that has been fraught with public health crises, the CDC has had more than its share of important work to do. While 2014’s Ebola epidemic dominated international headlines, the response to this crisis was only one mission the CDC undertook during the past year.

“CDC’s Ebola response is the largest global effort in the agency’s history, but we’re carrying out many other public health missions crucial to protecting American lives,” CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a press release. “We’re taking action on a wide range of health threats.”

Thomas Frieden

Thomas R. Frieden

To elucidate its various public health missions and review the actions the agency has taken, the CDC has released its top 10 most important public health challenges of 2014.

The Ebola outbreak

In response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the CDC has deployed 170 staff in the field and has more than 700 people serving in other capacities at any given time. According to Frieden, it is crucial to address this issue in West Africa to ensure global safety. “Americans will be 100% safe only when we succeed in stopping Ebola at its source in West Africa,” he said.

Antibiotic resistance

Despite significant progress in fighting antibiotic resistance, the CDC continues to make this serious threat a priority. According to Beth P. Bell, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, preventing and fighting antibiotic resistance is a key mission for 2015. “Every day we don’t act to better protect antibiotics will make it harder and more expensive to address drug resistance in the future,” Bell said in the press release. “Drug resistance can undermine both our ability to fight infectious diseases and much of modern medicine.”

David Bell

Beth P. Bell

Enterovirus D68

This previously rare virus has mostly affected American children in 2014. For children with asthma, enterovirus D68 is especially severe. In response to the recent outbreak, the CDC developed a rapid lab test that can detect the virus. “When rare or uncommon viruses suddenly begin causing severe illness, CDC works quickly to develop diagnostic tests to enhance our response and investigations,” Anne Schuchat, MD, assistant surgeon general and director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in the release.

Anne Schuchat

Anne Schuchat

Middle East respiratory syndrome

First reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) gained alarming momentum in 2014. “In the interconnected world we live in, we expected MERS-CoV to make its way to the United States,” Frieden said. “We have been preparing since 2012 for this possibility.”

HIV/AIDS

Significant strides have been made to control and prevent HIV/AIDS, but this pandemic remains a global public health challenge. As part of its ongoing efforts, the CDC is a primary partner in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which offers help to more than 60 countries in bolstering their national HIV/AIDS programs. Through this initiative, the CDC has facilitated antiretroviral treatment for 7.7 million people and supported HIV diagnostics and counseling resources for more than 56.7 million people in 2014. “The heart of what CDC brings to the fight against AIDS is our ability to share our science and innovation to build capacity across the globe,” Frieden said. “We are beginning to turn the tide on the HIV pandemic, and saving millions of lives in doing so.”

Polio

With the global eradication of polio close at hand, the CDC is committed to maintaining the momentum toward achieving this goal. “If we eradicate polio in the next few years, we’ll not only eliminate a crippling disease for generations to come, but have an estimated global savings of $40 billion to $50 billion over the subsequent 20 years,” Gregory Armstrong, MD, incident manager for the CDC’s polio eradication response, said in the release. “The finish line is in sight and will be a gift to every generation to come.”

Laboratory safety

Another issue that came to the fore in 2014 was the need for improved laboratory safety. Laboratory incidents at CDC and FDA facilities raised national awareness regarding this issue, and the CDC took steps toward facilitating safer laboratories. “Safety improvement is a continuous process,” Leslie Dauphin, PhD, acting associate director for laboratory science and safety, said in the release. “It is essential that we strive for the highest standards of safety to ensure that CDC labs are the most scientifically rigorous and the safest in the world.”

Leading causes of death

The CDC also continues to work toward preventing and combating the leading causes of death in the United States, including cardiovascular disease, which kills nearly 800,000 Americans annually. In 2014, the CDC’s Million Hearts campaign focused on the adoption of standardized treatment approaches to improving blood pressure control.

Smoking

With an annual death toll of more than 480,000 Americans, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the US. To address this ongoing issue, the CDC continued its national tobacco education campaign, Tips from Former Smokers. In 2014, the campaign featured advertisements describing lesser known secondary health conditions linked to smoking.

“These new ads are powerful. They highlight illnesses and suffering caused by smoking that people don’t commonly associate with cigarette use,” Frieden said. “Smokers have told us these ads help them quit by showing what it’s like to live every day with disability and disfigurement from smoking.”

Fatal prescription drug overdoses

Prescription drug overdoses lead to the deaths of 44 people in the US every day. The CDC partnered with other health organizations in 2014 to improve the regulation of prescription drugs and decrease unnecessary prescriptions.

“Prescription drug overdose is epidemic in the United States,” Frieden said. “All too often, and in far too many communities, the treatment is becoming the problem. States where prescribing rates are highest need to take a particularly hard look at ways to reduce the inappropriate prescription of these drugs that are dangerous when misused or abused.”

In a year that has been fraught with public health crises, the CDC has had more than its share of important work to do. While 2014’s Ebola epidemic dominated international headlines, the response to this crisis was only one mission the CDC undertook during the past year.

“CDC’s Ebola response is the largest global effort in the agency’s history, but we’re carrying out many other public health missions crucial to protecting American lives,” CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a press release. “We’re taking action on a wide range of health threats.”

Thomas Frieden

Thomas R. Frieden

To elucidate its various public health missions and review the actions the agency has taken, the CDC has released its top 10 most important public health challenges of 2014.

The Ebola outbreak

In response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the CDC has deployed 170 staff in the field and has more than 700 people serving in other capacities at any given time. According to Frieden, it is crucial to address this issue in West Africa to ensure global safety. “Americans will be 100% safe only when we succeed in stopping Ebola at its source in West Africa,” he said.

Antibiotic resistance

Despite significant progress in fighting antibiotic resistance, the CDC continues to make this serious threat a priority. According to Beth P. Bell, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, preventing and fighting antibiotic resistance is a key mission for 2015. “Every day we don’t act to better protect antibiotics will make it harder and more expensive to address drug resistance in the future,” Bell said in the press release. “Drug resistance can undermine both our ability to fight infectious diseases and much of modern medicine.”

David Bell

Beth P. Bell

Enterovirus D68

This previously rare virus has mostly affected American children in 2014. For children with asthma, enterovirus D68 is especially severe. In response to the recent outbreak, the CDC developed a rapid lab test that can detect the virus. “When rare or uncommon viruses suddenly begin causing severe illness, CDC works quickly to develop diagnostic tests to enhance our response and investigations,” Anne Schuchat, MD, assistant surgeon general and director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in the release.

Anne Schuchat

Anne Schuchat

Middle East respiratory syndrome

First reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) gained alarming momentum in 2014. “In the interconnected world we live in, we expected MERS-CoV to make its way to the United States,” Frieden said. “We have been preparing since 2012 for this possibility.”

HIV/AIDS

Significant strides have been made to control and prevent HIV/AIDS, but this pandemic remains a global public health challenge. As part of its ongoing efforts, the CDC is a primary partner in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which offers help to more than 60 countries in bolstering their national HIV/AIDS programs. Through this initiative, the CDC has facilitated antiretroviral treatment for 7.7 million people and supported HIV diagnostics and counseling resources for more than 56.7 million people in 2014. “The heart of what CDC brings to the fight against AIDS is our ability to share our science and innovation to build capacity across the globe,” Frieden said. “We are beginning to turn the tide on the HIV pandemic, and saving millions of lives in doing so.”

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Polio

With the global eradication of polio close at hand, the CDC is committed to maintaining the momentum toward achieving this goal. “If we eradicate polio in the next few years, we’ll not only eliminate a crippling disease for generations to come, but have an estimated global savings of $40 billion to $50 billion over the subsequent 20 years,” Gregory Armstrong, MD, incident manager for the CDC’s polio eradication response, said in the release. “The finish line is in sight and will be a gift to every generation to come.”

Laboratory safety

Another issue that came to the fore in 2014 was the need for improved laboratory safety. Laboratory incidents at CDC and FDA facilities raised national awareness regarding this issue, and the CDC took steps toward facilitating safer laboratories. “Safety improvement is a continuous process,” Leslie Dauphin, PhD, acting associate director for laboratory science and safety, said in the release. “It is essential that we strive for the highest standards of safety to ensure that CDC labs are the most scientifically rigorous and the safest in the world.”

Leading causes of death

The CDC also continues to work toward preventing and combating the leading causes of death in the United States, including cardiovascular disease, which kills nearly 800,000 Americans annually. In 2014, the CDC’s Million Hearts campaign focused on the adoption of standardized treatment approaches to improving blood pressure control.

Smoking

With an annual death toll of more than 480,000 Americans, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the US. To address this ongoing issue, the CDC continued its national tobacco education campaign, Tips from Former Smokers. In 2014, the campaign featured advertisements describing lesser known secondary health conditions linked to smoking.

“These new ads are powerful. They highlight illnesses and suffering caused by smoking that people don’t commonly associate with cigarette use,” Frieden said. “Smokers have told us these ads help them quit by showing what it’s like to live every day with disability and disfigurement from smoking.”

Fatal prescription drug overdoses

Prescription drug overdoses lead to the deaths of 44 people in the US every day. The CDC partnered with other health organizations in 2014 to improve the regulation of prescription drugs and decrease unnecessary prescriptions.

“Prescription drug overdose is epidemic in the United States,” Frieden said. “All too often, and in far too many communities, the treatment is becoming the problem. States where prescribing rates are highest need to take a particularly hard look at ways to reduce the inappropriate prescription of these drugs that are dangerous when misused or abused.”