The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is based in Atlanta. When I was a volunteer in Sierra Leone in the nineteen-sixties, the CDC was spoken of with reverence and respect. It appeared to be one of the few entities that had a global health reach, and an international health conscience.
Later, when I was working in Puerto Rico, I learned of the CDC’s role in researching the disease Bilharzia, or Schistosomiasis, which is endemic in fresh-water streams in Latin America and Africa. The streams of Puerto Rico, and the support from the U.S. Navy installations on the Island, provided an effective and easily-accessed research laboratory for CDC scientists. That work resulted in identification of the disease source, fresh-water snails, and an effective solution to the “blood- fluke” infection that came from them.
Recently, the CDC has been demonized and denigrated by President Donald Trump, who has attempted to substitute CDC’s fifty-years of global health experience with his own “extensive” medical knowledge. The really crazy part of this ignorant and idiotic notion is that his followers believe him over CDC. I feel the U.S. Center for Disease Control deserves far better. This blog is a modest accolade.
Trump may have decimated the top management of the CDC but the experts, who make up the bulk of the workforce, are still there, and they need recognition and support. They work in over 60 countries as well as at CDC Headquarters in Atlanta. Their efforts have resulted in current partnerships with 63 countries worldwide.
The CDC is also responsible for training the current top epidemiologists in something like eighty-five countries. It has offered global training and scholarship programs since its foundation in the 1950’s and they still continue today. It has a library of infectious disease knowledge and experience that is second to none. Indeed, many countries call their infectious disease institutions “Centers for Disease Control” in recognition of its contributions: Nigeria, India, Latvia, Africa, China and Korea, to name just a few.
In his 2003 State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush announced his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. It committed 15 billion dollars in foreign aid to help combat the disease. By 2008 the initiative had reached over 57 million people. The CDC was the entity charged with this initiative.
In 2005, President Bush launched the President’s Malaria Initiative. By 2007, this initiative helped in the distribution of over 6 million long-lasting, insecticide-treated mosquito nets. In 2008, Bush signed legislation to commit a further 48 billion dollars to continue the fight against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control was the institution that headed all these initiatives.
Trump has gone, but the havoc he created by his ignorant attempts to diminish the CDC remains. I hope that this blog is a small contribution to the restoration of the CDC’s image and, at the same time, highlights the enormous contribution that George W. Bush made to global health.