Viewpoint: Strengthening the CDC is 'a matter of national security'

The CDC faced widespread criticism over its antiquated systems and early pandemic preparedness measures. One physician who worked on a report detailing solutions to strengthen the agency explained why: "Fundamentally, the CDC's overall mission, function and purpose is not as clearly defined as that of other federal agencies."

Asaf Bitton, MD, the executive director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health collaboration between Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard, both in Boston, is one of the members who worked on the January report. Led by the CSIS Commission on Strengthening America's Health Security, the report details several steps the CDC could take moving forward to improve its procedures, including: 

  1. Clarify the mission and priorities of the CDC.
  2. Develop a better leadership and accountability structure.
  3. Implement direct channels of dialogue and decision-making.
  4. Restructure policies and procedures in place for issuing rapid guidelines during crises.
  5. Expand and clarify the CDC's role in policymaking alongside Congress for healthcare-related issues. 

Dr. Bitton also said in an article published by Harvard that ultimately the report's guidance should be prioritized, as should strengthening the CDC from the inside out. 

"Securing our nation's health is a matter of national security," he said. "Pandemics don't respect geographic boundaries or political ideology. I think that if we can center on these core truths, a way forward emerges."

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