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CDC Leadership Seeks to Reform and Modernize Agency

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will focus on sharing scientific findings and data more quickly to the public and improving health communications in a plan to reform the agency, said the CDC’s director, Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH.



Dr Rochelle Walensky

The plan is a response to a 1-month review conducted by officials from the US Health Resources and Services Administration. It was brought on by continued criticism of the CDC’s response to the pandemic as well as its approach to the monkeypox outbreak.

“For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” said Walensky in an email to CDC staff. “As a long-time admirer of this agency and a champion for public health, I want us all to do better, and it starts with CDC leading the way.”

The review included interviews with 120 staff and external stakeholders. It ultimately identified five main goals for the CDC to achieve:

  1. Share scientific findings and data faster and be forthcoming about the CDC’s current level of understanding.

  2. Translate science into practical and understandable policy.

  3. Prioritize public health communications.

  4. Promote results-based partnerships and address limitations in a siloed approach to public health issues.

  5. Develop a workforce that is prepared for future emergencies.

The announcement also noted that the agency would be focusing more on swiftly issuing public health guidance, rather than publishing scientific articles.

“My goal is a new, public health action-oriented culture at CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication, and timeliness,” Walensky said.

Mary Wakefield, who served as the acting deputy secretary the US Department of Health and Human Services from 2015 to 2017 under President Barack Obama, has been appointed to lead the team to help achieve these goals.

Walensky acknowledged in her statement that some aspects of the plan will require working with Congress so as to grant the CDC authority that it currently does not have, such as mandating data sharing from jurisdictions.

She also pointed out the need for the authority to directly hire persons to fill positions faster, as well as to provide competitive salaries for data scientists and for personnel for “hard-to-fill” positions.

So far, no additional funding has been allocated to help achieve these aims, a CDC spokesperson told Medscape Medical News.

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