CDC to overhaul public health response

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is to prioritise its public health response following criticism over its handling of the COVID-19 and monkeypox pandemics.

A briefing document provided by the agency said an external report into its response found public guidance had caused confusion, while important information were sometimes released too late to inform federal decisions. 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in response the agency was undertaking a series of changes designed to make it quicker at responding, faster at providing data and less focused on publishing fully vetted scientific papers.

“For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” Walensky told CDC staff.

“I want us all to do better and it starts with CDC leading the way,” she said, adding that the focus will be on creating an ‘action-oriented’ culture that emphasises accountability, collaboration, communication and timeliness.

According to reports, plans to modernise the agency include giving the CDC new authority to require states to report data and changes that will allow the CDC to hire staff more quickly and offer more competitive salaries. 

Both actions will require authorisation from Congress.

As part of the changes, the CDC will name Mary Wakefield, former acting deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration, to lead a team to help implement the restructuring, the agency said.

The steps follow the external review ordered by Walensky in April of its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

To encourage faster communication, Walensky wants to create an online mechanism to share findings before they are completely published and expedite the data review process.