CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is ripe for a full reorganization after a disjointed performance during the pandemic, Director Rochelle Walensky told her staff in a Wednesday meeting.

Walensky, who assumed office in January 2021, cited an external review that critiqued the agency’s slow response to new data and its “confusing” COVID-19 public guidance, according to The New York Times. 

She proposed that the agency be restructured to emphasize timely public health messages and actionable information about ongoing outbreaks, and that it put fewer resources toward scientific papers on obscure topics that require lengthy review.

The overhaul, as broadly outlined, would put the focus on “data for action” rather than “data for publication,” the Times reported.

“For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” Walensky told senior staff. “My goal is a new, public health, action-oriented culture at CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication and timeliness.”

An initial plan for remaking the organization calls for a new executive team that would prioritize spending with a “bias toward public health impact”; the appointment of an official to direct the new public health focus; shortened review time for urgently needed studies; and a strengthened public health emergency response team, according to the Times. And there will be continued emphasis on making public health messages clear and easy to understand, Walensky said.

APIC applauds proposal

Clinical organizations are applauding the proposed reorganization. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, for one, commended Walensky for “seizing the opportunity to better resource the CDC to respond more rapidly” to respond to emerging public health threats. 

APIC encouraged the Biden Administration to also look beyond the CDC at other issues highlighted during the pandemic. These include supply chain failures, masking and vaccines misinformation, and “the need to invest in infection prevention and control infrastructure and personnel to support surge capacity during a pandemic,” it said.

While the CDC improvements are important, additional actions are needed “to build a strong public health system that can prevent and respond to future novel pathogens, while also preventing healthcare-associated infections which kill tens of thousands of Americans each year,” APIC stated.

The full CDC story can be found here.

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