CDC Sets Six “Winnable Battles” for Americans’ Health

 CDC sets six health priorities as "winnable battles". The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified six priorities to keep the nation healthy – or what its director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, calls “winnable battles”.  The six are smoking, AIDS, obesity/nutrition, teen pregnancy, auto injuries and healthcare infections. Although some healthcare experts consider this a bold move on Frieden’s part, others are angry that the six take priority over certain deadly diseases.

Bruce Burkett, past president of the National Hepatitis C Advocacy Council, believes that hepatitis B and C are “badly neglected” by the CDC.  “I was very disappointed that it wasn’t on there.  This is gong to affect millions by not being on there.”  Jeff Levi, who heads the research group Trust for America’s Health, also expressed concern, saying “I think everyone is going to be cautious in how the focus on winnable battles is balanced against other areas” that are considered crucial and may not be as easy to treat.

Frieden disagrees, noting that proven programs can save lives and reduce the risk of these health problems.  “In each of these areas, we know what to do to make a difference and we need to do it to a much greater extent,” Frieden said.  Additionally, the CDC has no intention of ignoring its other public health mission.  For one thing, it’s impossible, given that Congress directs the agency’s funding to certain causes.  Less than one-tenth of one percent of CDC’s $6.6 billion annual budget is discretionary and can be invested in the winnable battles initiative.

State health authorities are in agreement with Frieden’s priorities and will be happy to receive grant money from the CDC.  “We’re in the position of focusing pretty much on what we can get federal funds for,” said Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.  Humble believes that Frieden’s six winnable priorities are long overdue and welcomes the opportunity to better sell health improvement to Arizonans.  “You can’t market if your message is too diffuse.  If we’re all on the same page and working in the same direction, we can get a lot more momentum,” Humble said.

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