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CDC Zika Response

December is a great time to reflect on the past year. By almost any measure, 2016 was eventful, with triumph as seen in the Summer Olympic Games and tragedy in the form of terrorist attacks in the United States and around the globe. But as I reflect on the past year and my first 10 months leading the CDC Foundation, I think about all I am thankful for.

In that spirit, it is with heartfelt gratitude that I thank our CDC colleagues and our generous donors and partners for all their contributions and hard work to make America and the world a healthier and safer place to live in spite of the many health threats that appeared and, in some cases, increased during 2016.

In spite of the challenges, from drug-resistant superbugs to Zika-carrying mosquitoes, CDC continued to build on its 70-year track record of protecting the health of all Americans. Recently, CDC put forward some of its accomplishments from the past year, and I want to share some of the highlights:

Preventing Prescription Drug Overdose—Prescription drug overdoses represent a tremendous public health challenge. In March 2016, CDC issued guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain to reduce the risk of opioid addiction and overdose. CDC also increased funding for state programs and in 2017 will continue to help states develop tailored opioid overdose prevention programs that work. For example, the Prescription Drug Overdose Data-Driven Prevention Initiative will award funds for the next three years to 13 states and the District of Columbia. These funds will help American communities develop opioid overdose prevention programs tailored to local needs.

Keeping Americans Safe by Advancing Global Health Security—In 2016, CDC made critical progress advancing global health security. According to CDC, more than 40 countries have either completed or are in the process of undergoing a Joint External Evaluation—a crucial accountability mechanism that, for the first time, objectively and transparently identifies gaps in global preparedness. CDC’s Global Rapid Response Team—a highly trained workforce ready to deploy on short notice anywhere in the world—led the response to a significant yellow fever outbreak in Angola. By its first-year anniversary, the rapid response team staff had supported responses in 18 countries, spending 5,000 person-days in more than 140 responses to cholera, yellow fever, Ebola, measles, polio, Zika, mass gatherings and natural disasters. The most effective and least expensive way to protect Americans from health threats that begin overseas is to stop them before they spread.

Tobacco Use in the United States—CDC’s national tobacco education campaign, Tips From Former Smokers, shared the moving personal stories of Americans suffering from smoking-related illnesses. Due to the Tips campaign and other interventions, there are now 10 million fewer smokers in the United States than there were in 2009. In 2016, its fifth year, the latest evaluation of Tips impact shows it is as effective today as in its first year, saving lives for less than $3,000 each. In 2017, CDC will launch the next round of ads to help people quit smoking and live longer.

Rapid Response Saves Lives—This year, CDC’s Advanced Molecular Detection initiative helped scientists and laboratory specialists use technology to quickly develop the diagnostic tools to best fight diseases such as Zika. State-of-the-art genomic tools are changing the way CDC solves foodborne outbreaks faster by linking food sources to clusters of illness and recognizing outbreaks before they become widespread. By expanding these methods nationwide, we can get contaminated products off store shelves and out of people’s homes sooner to save more lives. Moving forward, CDC is working to build capacity in state and local public health labs to further advance detection and surveillance of infectious pathogens in the United States.

As 2016 comes to a close, I’m thankful for CDC and for each of you. On behalf of my colleagues at the CDC Foundation, I wish you a year of happiness and good health!

Judy Monroe, M.D., is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.

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