Pretty good year, CDC.
An anti-smoking campaign helped 100,000 smokers quit. A detection method stopped a deadly Listeria outbreak associated with contaminated cheese. Infections decreased at 12,000 health care facilities. And a milestone: we may have prevented the one millionth baby from being infected with HIV.
But as their mission statement makes perfectly clear, the Center for Disease Control works 24/7 to protect the health and safety of Americans, and it’s not resting on its laurels.
As we near the conclusion of 2013, the organization just announced its to-do list for the new year. With health threats coming from all sides—new microbes; travel and food supply; drug-resistant pathogens; misused biological science; and bio-terrorism—2014 is shaping up to be a busy one.
Here are the five looming dangers that threaten our national health, keep hypochondriacs awake at night, and make up the CDC’s New Year’s resolutions.
1. Increase the HPV vaccination rate
How’s this for scary? Almost every sexually-active man and woman will get HPV at some point in their lives. But good news, there’s a vaccine! Bad news? Nobody’s getting it. The CDC is far from its goal of 80 percent coverage by 2020. Vaccination rates stalled this year at a low 33 percent (Thanks, Katie Couric). For each year it remains at this level, the CDC warns 4,400 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 1,400 cervical cancer-attributable deaths will occur in the future.
2. Promote the wise use of antibiotics.
“We are approaching a cliff,” Dr. Michael Ball, Deputy Director of CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, warned this year. “If we don’t take steps to slow or stop drug resistance, we will fall back to a time when simple infections killed people.” Antibiotic-resistant infections attack more than two million Americans, killing at least 23,000 every year.
3. Tackle the prescription drug overdose epidemic.
Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses have reach epidemic proportions. The number of deaths from these drugs has quadrupled over the last ten years. In 2010, more than 16,500 people died from painkiller abuse, more than from heroin and cocaine combined. The CDC wants to turn this trend around.
4. Rid the world of polio.
The CDC has made some incredible strides in the goal to completely eradicate polio. Its efforts along with the World Health Organization have prevented over half a million deaths from the disease since 1988. But the CDC warns that if it stops vaccination efforts, “within a decade we would see a resurgence of polio that could paralyze more than 200,000 children worldwide every year.” The biggest challenge they face is reaching two million children in areas that are war zones or where there are local bans on immunizations.
5. Prevent infectious disease outbreaks
“There may be a misconception that infectious diseases are over in the industrialized world. But in fact, infectious diseases continue to be, and will always be, with us,” says CDC Director Tom Frieden. In only 24 hours, a disease can spread across the globe: a sobering thought. But the CDC is using its global network to strengthen surveillance and lab systems, train disease detectives, and build facilities to investigate disease outbreaks. It’s no easy task. Currently, according to the health agency, only 1 in 5 countries can quickly detect, respond to, or prevent global health threats caused by emerging infections.