New York Times Examines CDC’s ‘Uncomfortable Metamorphosis’ After Anthrax Incidents
The New York Times today examines the "uncomfortable metamorphosis" in the role of the CDC after the anthrax incidents last fall. In the past year, the CDC has shifted from an agency "focused on controlling naturally transmitted diseases to one heavily involved with bioterrorism and its possible effects on national security," the Times reports. The anthrax attacks "shook public and professional confidence" in the agency, which many said had "failed to communicate, clearly and quickly, vital information to the public and health workers."
In response, the CDC has provided $914 million to state and local health departments over the past year to improve disease surveillance systems, communication with local doctors and hospitals and the ability of public health laboratories to identify the "microbes considered most likely to be used" in a bioterrorist attack. CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said that the agency has moved to develop "closer ties" with other federal agencies such as the NIH, the FDA and intelligence operations. Gerberding added that she communicates daily with HHS officials and visits the department at least one time per week. Gerberding said that she also has made more visits to local health departments and that the CDC has held more conference calls with state and local health officials to inform them about agency developments. According to Dr. Mohammed Akter, executive director of the American Public Health Association, the improvements have "already borne fruit" in the fight against West Nile virus. However, some public health leaders have raised concerns that the "agency is moving too far in the bioterrorism direction, at the expense of its more traditional efforts" against illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and stroke. "Finding the right balance is a major challenge," Gerberding said, adding that the CDC must address both areas of public health (Altman, New York Times, 9/10).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.