New CDC Director Supports Scaling Up Behavioral Interventions

Thomas Frieden, MD,MPH, newly appointed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director, announced his priorities for the department, with one of his top priorities being to improve the ability of public health agencies to monitor health status and behaviors by leveraging the use of the Internet.

On July 15, newly appointed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Thomas Frieden, MD,MPH, met with stakeholders from the scientific and public health communities to discuss the agency’s current priorities and the challenges to improving public health.

Frieden explained that one of his top priorities is to improve the ability of public health agencies to monitor health status and behaviors by leveraging the use of the Internet, for example, in addition to using traditional surveillance methods. Another interest of his is to continue to address human behaviors that can cause life-threatening illnesses, such as tobacco use, which is still the single leading cause of death. Additional priorities mentioned were the importance of global health and the weaknesses of a global system to detect disease and health reform to ensure that the system’s goal is to improve health outcomes and the quality of health care.

Answering questions from the audience, Frieden reiterated his enthusiasm for supporting evidenced based scientific practices; particularly those that have proven benefits, like brief behavioral interventions for alcohol use and as diabetes prevention programs. When speaking of CDC’s HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, he supported more community-specific interventions to address the unique issues within different affected populations. He also praised the success seen in the injection drug user community and expressed frustration at the failure of some efforts to prevent infections within the MSM population.

How CDC will achieve all of these goals remains a challenge, especially considering the $6.6 billion fiscal year 2010 budget approved by the House Appropriation Committee. Frieden guaranteed, however, that the agency is working hard to spend its $1 billion, acquired through the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act, wisely. APA has joined the broader public health community in asking Congress for $8.6 billion for CDC’s core programs, as opposed to the $6.6 billion approved by the House Appropriations Committee.