Six former directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote a letter published in Politico, asking Congress to avoid budget cuts to that agency in the name of public health and safety. William H. Foege, Julie Gerberdine, Jeffrey P. Koplan, James O. Mason, William L. Roper, and David Satcher all signed the letter.
They state that the work of the CDC is “a matter of life and death.” That government agency supports emergency responses to hurricanes, investigates foodborne illness outbreaks, problems with medical products, and fights chronic illness in this country. They point to the current meningitis outbreak linked to steroids made at the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts as a prime example of necessary government surveillance. So far, 510 people have been sickened in that outbreak and 36 people have died.
The CDC serves as a clearinghouse for information relating to outbreaks, working with state and local public health officials to identify the problem, trace the contaminated product to its source, and investigate the best treatment options for patients. To meet the demands of this outbreak, more than 300 staff were used. Budget cuts, which would reduce the number of staff, could “curtail the CDC’s ability to detect and rapidly respond to health crises wherever they occur,” according to the letter.
The letter ends by stating, “we served under presidents on both sides of the political aisle, so we know that ensuring CDC is well resourced is not a partisan issue. We need to be mindful that it is essential to ensuring the public’s health and our nation’s economic security.”