Public Health’s Priorities for the New Year: Stop Ebola, Polio, Drug Overdoses

A Liberian Red Cross burial team carries a body for a 'safe burial' after collecting it from a home in the West Point township on January 29, 2015 in Monrovia, Liberia.

John Moore / Getty Images

A Liberian Red Cross burial team carries a body for a \’safe burial\’ after collecting it from a home in the West Point township on January 29, 2015 in Monrovia, Liberia.

The public health “to do” list for 2016:

  • Extinguish Ebola in West Africa, eradicate polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and accelerate the work of strengthening public health infrastructure in every country.
  • Stop the outbreaks of drug-resistant organisms rapidly and protect antibiotics by greatly improving their rational use among both humans and feed animals.
  • Reverse the devastating opioid epidemic, both prescribed painkillers and illicit street drugs. Prescribed opioid drug overdoses killed about 19,000 Americans in 2015, a 16 percent increase from the year before.
  • Double down on efforts to prevent the two leading killers, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The list comes from “The State of Public Health 2016” provided to the American Public Health Association by Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s always nice to have priorities, even a list of this magnitude.

The World Health Organization has said climate change represents perhaps the largest health risk to the planet’s population, and Frieden acknowledged that warming has already brought such mosquito-borne diseases as dengue fever, a leading killer in the tropics and sub-tropics, and chikungunya to places where they were never present before, including the United States.

Killer infections that are antibiotic resistant are occurring in increasing numbers. Hospital settings are not immune.

Down low in the newsletter, Frieden says CDC strives “to be the safest laboratories anywhere,” lauding the appointment of a new associate director for laboratory science and safety.

This could be a positive way of addressing news reports that CDC labs have suffered serious safety breaches in dealing with some of the worlds most dangerous pathogens. Welcome the new guy who’s going to take care of it, but don’t mention it.

It is indeed good to have priorities.

 

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