After the Covid-19 pandemic subsides: My conversation with the CDC Director

I had the pleasure of participating in an informative and engaging conversation with CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky for the 2021 edition of Aspen Ideas Health, taking place this week. Our conversation focused on looking over the horizon following the post-COVID-19 pandemic and examining how to collectively meet the public health challenges of the future.

Some noteworthy takeaways from our discussion include Dr. Walensky’s discussion of CDC’s need to continue to evolve as the nation’s primary public health agency. I think this evolution is evinced most recently in CDC’s pronouncement of racism as a serious public health issue. And, building on this point, she identified health equity as a priority for her tenure as CDC director.

Dr. Walensky stated that CDC is invested in equity and we need to make sure that not only are we working towards vaccination equity, testing equity, following the cases and understanding where they are and why some communities have been harder hit, but we need to make sure as we’re doing all of that hard work now that we actually make those investments stick for longer than just Covid-19.

She also provided insights into how we can strengthen public health for future pandemics and health threats, emphaszing data modernization as well as rebuilding the nation’s public health workforce as keys to improving and preparing for the future. Another salient point was her thoughts on the importance of the private sector’s role in protecting our collective health security.

Dr. Walensky went on to say she thinks it’s absolutely essential, if we’ve learned one thing in this pandemic, it is that public health is not going to do this alone, healthcare systems are not going to do this alone and the government can’t do this alone. We are going to need partnerships across all agencies, we’re going to need public private partnerships, we’re going to need innovation and public health.

I agree with Dr. Walensky that society benefits from the private sector’s penchant for innovation, its technical know-how, knowledge, and support of the critical work performed by public health agencies like CDC. I hope you find Dr. Walenksy’s comments to be edifying and inspirational. You can watch at Aspen Ideas Health.

Dr. Judy Monroe
Judy Monroe, MD, is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.