GAO Review Recommends Management Structure Revisions at CDC
The General Accounting Office on Friday recommended that CDC officials consider revisions to the management structure of the agency to allow continued progress on non-emergency public health programs when emergencies, such as anthrax or SARS outbreaks, arise, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. The GAO issued the recommendation as part of a review of CDC that began before Julie Gerberding became director of the agency. According to the review, public health emergencies often divert the attention of CDC officials, "leaving little time for focusing on non-emergency public health work and agency operations" at the 11 agency centers nationwide (McMurray, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 1/30). "Only CDC's director has line authority for the centers," which "perform the bulk of the agency's public health work," the review found. Public health emergencies place "extraordinary demands" on the time of the CDC director, and as a result, the current management structure of the agency has a "significant oversight weakness," according to the review (GAO review, January 2004). The GAO recommended that each CDC center report to an individual other than the agency director. In addition, the review found that some CDC employees perform the same duties. The review praised improvements in the ability of CDC to respond to public health emergencies and the addition of a chief operating officer responsible for financial management and information technology at the agency. The review is available online. Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this report.
CDC officials said that Gerberding has begun a "top-to-bottom examination of the agency, its structure and mission" and has begun to meet with the directors of the 11 CDC centers on a regular basis to improve communication across the agency, the AP/Sun reports. In addition, CDC spokesperson Tom Skinner said that the agency is "closely examining the many lessons learned" in past responses to public health emergencies to "take the best practices ... and institute those into our other public health domain." He added, "It's not that anything is broken, but this initiative is really an opportunity to examine priorities, systems and practices" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 1/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.