CDC Director Announces Organization Launch

NEW YORK – The head of the nation’s top public health agency on Wednesday announced an organizational change aimed at making it more agile.

The planned changes at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC leaders call it a “reset” – come amid continued criticism of the virus. Agency response to COVID-19, monkey smallpox and other public health threats. The changes include internal staffing moves and steps to speed data release.

The director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told agency staff about the changes on Wednesday. It was an initiative of the CDC and was not directed by the White House or other administration officials, she said.

“I feel it’s my responsibility to lead this agency to a better position after three really challenging years,” Walensky told The Associated Press.

CDC, with a budget of $12 billion and more than 11,000 employees, is an Atlanta-based federal agency tasked with protecting Americans from disease outbreaks and other public health threats. . It is customary for each CDC director to do some reorganization, but Walensky’s action comes amid growing demands for change.

The agency has long been criticized for being too deliberate, focusing on data collection and analysis but failing to act quickly on new health threats. But public dissatisfaction with the company has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts say the CDC has been slow to recognize how much of the virus has entered the United States from Europe, advised people to wear masks, said the virus could be spread through the air, and ramped up testing that could system for new variants.

“During COVID, we saw that the structure of the CDC was not designed to capture, digest, and disseminate information,” said Jason Schwartz, a health policy researcher at the Yale School of Public Health. it to the public at the required speed.

Walensky, who became director in January 2021, has long said the company must move faster and communicate better, but stumbling blocks continued during her tenure.

In April, she called for an in-depth review of the agency, which resulted in the changes being announced. Her reorganization proposal must be approved by the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. CDC officials said they expect to have a full package of changes finalized, approved and ready to go by early next year.

Some of the changes are still in the works, but the steps announced Wednesday include:

—Increasing use of preprinted scientific reports for actionable data, rather than waiting for peer-reviewed research to be published in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

—Restructuring the agency’s communications office and further improving the CDC’s websites to make the agency’s guidance to the public clearer and easier to find.

—Over the long period of time agency leaders spend on outbreak responses at least six months – an effort to address revenue issues that sometimes cause knowledge gaps and impact to agency contact information.

—Established a new executive committee to help Walensky set strategy and priorities.

—Appoint Mary Wakefield as a senior advisor to implement the changes. Wakefield headed the Health Services and Resources Administration during the Obama administration and is also the #2 administrator at HHS. Wakefield, 68, begins Monday.

—Changed the agency’s organizational chart to undo some of the changes made during the Trump administration.

—Set up an office for intergovernmental affairs to smooth partnerships with other agencies, as well as a higher-level office for health equity.

Walensky also said she intends to “remove some of the layers of reporting that exist, and I’d like to work on breaking some of the silos.” She didn’t say exactly what that might entail, but emphasized that the overall changes are not about redrawing the organization chart but rethinking the way CDC does business and motivates employees.

“These will not simply be moving boxes,” she says on the org chart.

Schwartz said the flaws in the federal response extend beyond the CDC, because the White House and other agencies have been heavily involved.

The CDC reorganization is a positive step, but “I hope it’s not the end of the story,” Schwartz said. He wants to see “a broader account” of how the federal government handles health crises.

The Associated Press Health and Science Division receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Department. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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