Just weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began an extensive internal review with an eye toward restructuring, the agency’s director announced on Friday that the team that coordinated the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic would return some of its functions to other departments. General Chat Chat Lounge
But the so-called Incident Management Structure, finally brought together to respond to the public health emergency, is not being dissolved and will continue to meet “the demands of this evolving pandemic,” according to a letter sent to employees on Friday by the agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
The move signals the beginning of efforts to put in place comprehensive changes at the agency, whose public standing and reputation have been in recent years. Some 60 percent of Americans, for example, say they are confused by changes in official pandemic recommendations, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
But Dr. Walensky’s letter was short on details regarding the changes. Response to a statement from the New York Times said only that the review’s “preliminary data collection phase is complete, and that the director will now synthesize information, identify specific themes, and prioritize approaches to new steps and find new ways to adapt. agency to the changing environment. “
Dr. Walensky told employees last month that the CDC, which has faced an onslaught of criticism over its recent handling of the pandemic, would undergo a review and evaluation by Jim Macrae, a federal official who has held several senior positions within the department’s Health and Human. Services. That review started on April 11.
The review is also looking at how to modernize the ways in which the agency develops scientific research and deploys it, and what other strategic improvements. Can be made to serve better public health, like better surveillance systems.
To those ends, the reviewers have conducted more than 100 interviews and held about 50 one-on-one conversations with public health leaders both inside and outside the agency, Dr. Walensky said.
The CDC has long been admired for its scientific approach to improving public health. Many scientists from around the world were trained by its experts and have emulated the agency’s standards and methods.
But the CDC’s infrastructure was neglected for decades, along with the public health system generally. Agency scientists stumbled early in a diagnostic test of the flawed design, and went on to make some recommendations about masking, isolation and quarantine that critics were charged based on insufficient evidence.
On Friday, Dr. Walensky indicated that health equity would be a priority for the agency in the future. The pandemic laid bare the stark racial and ethnic health disparities in the United States. Black, Hispanic and American Indian / Alaska Native adults were hospitalized with Covid and died at higher rates than white Americans.
The roots of the inequities are myriad, and include increasing access to care, mistrust in the medical system, higher rates of existing health problems like obesity and diabetes, and socioeconomic conditions, such as crowded housing and consumer-facing jobs, that increase the odds. of exposure to the virus.
Dr. Walensky said the lessons learned from the pandemic and the feedback she received received were clear “that it is time to take a step back and strategically position the CDC to facilitate and support the future of public health with a focus on health equity and the agency’s core capabilities. . “