CDC has made significant strides combatting some of the biggest threats to Americans’ health, including infectious and chronic diseases. In 2015, CDC helped lead global efforts to slow Ebola transmissions in West Africa and make major progress in preventing future outbreaks. Rates of adult cigarette smoking reached an all-time low, and health care industries across the country made commitments to combat antibiotic resistance. CDC continues to lead improvements in all areas of public health, even in those where there has already been great progress.
In 2016, one CDC focus is reversing the number of deaths from infections resistant to antibiotics. At least 23,000 Americans died from these largely preventable infections in 2015. CDC also will continue to find ways to prevent deaths from prescription drug abuse – which has claimed the lives of more than 160,000 Americans over the past decade. And, because smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., CDC remains on the frontlines in the fight to help Americans quit and not start.
“CDC works to protect the health, safety and security of Americans – and 2015 was a particularly challenging – and successful – year,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “Old and new threats to our health, such as Ebola, dengue, HIV, e-cigarette use among kids, foodborne illness, prescription drug overdoses, and increased drug resistance are just a few of the threats that kept us up at night – and will keep us busy in 2016.”
Looking back, and what’s next?
Widespread transmission of Ebola in West Africa has been controlled, although additional cases may continue to occur sporadically. Because of ongoing surveillance and strengthened response capacities, however, the affected countries now have the experience and tools to rapidly identify any additional cases and to limit transmission. In 2015, CDC partnered with other U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies and private industry to launch an Ebola vaccine trial in Sierra Leone and vaccinated more than 8,000 participants. In the United States, HHS, with CDC support, has invested nearly $340 million to enhance state and local and health care system preparedness for Ebola, including the designation and funding of a robust healthcare network of more than 55 local and regional assessment and treatment centers. In 2016, CDC is setting up permanent offices in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to help the most affected West African countries effectively detect and respond to future outbreaks. CDC is also supporting the African Union in setting up their own centers for disease control and prevention, the African CDC, to address priority public health concerns in Africa.
In 2015 the White House released the National Action Plan to Combat Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria to ensure the responsible use of antibiotics, and the CDC took part in the first White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship. In 2016, CDC will accelerate these activities and release a report that details progress in prescribing practices in human medicine. CDC also plans to debut the Antibiotic Patient Safety Atlas, an interactive web platform with open access to antibiotic resistance data.
Global Health Security
This year, the advancement of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) was marked by a 30-country commitment to achieve the targets of the GHSA. In 2016 the U.S. will establish a five-year roadmap to help us reach those targets. This plan is needed to ensure all countries have the ability to find, stop and prevent infectious diseases – to protect those in their community and prevent spread to the rest of the world.
The 2015 “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign demonstrated that hard-hitting ads featuring the struggles of former smokers can make a real impact. In 2012, the campaign resulted in an estimated 100,000 smokers quitting permanently and averted about 17,000 premature deaths. While the number of current adult smokers is at an all-time low, there is still much work to be done to curb tobacco use in teens.
Prescription Drug Overdose
The prescription drug overdose epidemic continues to grip the nation, making this issue a top priority for CDC and all of HHS. In 2015 the agency launched the Prevention for States program that gives qualifying states the tools they need to detect and prevent opioid deaths. A new social media campaign highlighted stories of Americans directly impacted by opioid abuse, and our rigorous surveillance continued to detect new outbreaks and threats in the opioid abuse epidemic – like the rising problem of fentanyl-laced heroin. In 2016, CDC plans to release opioid prescribing guidelines for primary care providers and expand the Prevention for States program to all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
Lab safety improvements at CDC remained a critical area and saw much progress in 2015, including establishing the new Office of the Associate Director for Laboratory Science and Safety and welcoming the inaugural class of Laboratory Leadership Service fellows. The nature of CDC’s scientific laboratory work means that some risk is always there. Looking ahead in 2016, the goal is to use lessons learned and best practices to mitigate as much of this risk as possible. CDC can’t stop its work – it’s too important to the agency’s ability to protect Americans and keep us all safe.