5 health challenges for 2014
December 18th, 2013
08:38 AM ET

5 health challenges for 2014

By Tom Frieden, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Dr. Tom Frieden is the director for the Center for Disease Control. The views expressed are his own.

The Center for Disease Control’s more than 12,000 public health experts have a simple goal: to help people live healthier, longer lives.  This will increase productivity and reduce health care costs.

We as a country are fortunate there are so many dedicated specialists working 24/7 to protect us from threats.  The skill and hard work of CDC staff allows me to sleep well at night.

Of course, there were those 16 nerve-wracking days in October when most of CDC’s experts weren’t here because of the government shut-down. The uncertainty of that time makes me appreciate CDC’s achievements in 2013 even more. Our work with partner organizations and individuals in the government and private sector – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and laboratory experts – in this country and around the world made this progress possible.  And our progress this past year enables even more progress in 2014.

1) The first year of our Tips from Former Smokers campaign led more than 100,000 smokers to quit for good.

2) We were able to use the tools of Advanced Molecular Detection to understand and stop an outbreak of listeria infections. We need more to keep you safe.

3) Our National Healthcare Safety Network helped more than 12,000 health care facilities track their progress reducing healthcare-associated infections, preventing illness and saving lives and money.

4) We reached a dramatic milestone, the prevention of HIV infection in one million babies globally over the past 10 years through the PEPFAR program.

5) We developed new resources that will help health care professionals, communities, and individuals prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

We are proud of this progress, but there’s much more to do. Here are five actions I will be tracking closely in 2014.

1) Increase uptake of the HPV vaccine, which is an anti-cancer vaccine. We will support doctors to talk to parents about the importance of HPV vaccine so it’s given at every opportunity.  For every year we delay, another 4,400 women will develop cervical cancer in the future.

2) Preserve our antibiotics so we, our children, and our grandchildren can benefit from this life-saving resource.  Ensuring that antibiotics remain effective won’t be easy, but although antibiotic resistance is increasing for many microbes, there’s still time to slow, stop, or reverse its spread.

3) Reduce deaths from overdose.  Prescription opioid deaths have increased five-fold since 1999. We can reduce the risk of overdose while we make sure that patients have access to safe and effective pain treatment.

4) Eradicate polio.  The last mile is always the hardest, but the finish line is in sight, and eradicating polio will be the ultimate in sustainability and equity – it will be forever and for every child.

5) Increase our safety from global threats.  We are all connected by air, water, food, and trade; we can help the US and the world become safer.  We’re working with global partners to help more effectively prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats.

CDC is America’s health protection agency. Along with our partners, we’ve got boots on the ground finding, stopping, and preventing disease – in the nation and in every state.

Yet in the past four years, CDC’s budget authority has been cut close to than $1 billion, hurting our ability to guard the nation against health threats, both old and new. Last fiscal year, our budget was cut by nearly $600 million. These cuts make it harder for us to protect Americans from health threats such as emerging and resistant microbes, natural disasters, and bioterrorism.

Still, whatever the budgetary challenges, our goal is to protect and improve the health of individuals, families, our communities, our country and people across the globe. It’s a passion that makes us feel fortunate to do the work we do.

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