Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden discussed President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2017 budget last week at APHA. Photo by APHA/Daniel Greenberg

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden discussed President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget last week at APHA. Photo by APHA/Daniel Greenberg

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was given a combined funding decrease of $194 million below fiscal year 2016 levels in President Obama’s budget request last week.

The next day APHA hosted CDC at its headquarters to discuss the budget with the CDC Coalition, a public health advocacy group of more than 100 organizations.

“Thank you for your advocacy,” said APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD, “because we’re probably going to need you more than ever this particular year.”

CDC’s funding decreases prominently including elimination of Preventive Health and Health Services Bock Grants and decreases for its immunization program, cancer screenings, occupational health and safety and Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health.

However CDC Director Tom Frieden shared at APHA numerous victories, both in the budget and for public health overall.

On the positive side, CDC received increases for gun violence prevention research; prescription drug overdose; “the largest single proposed increase” of $40 million to address antibiotic resistance; and global health protection. Frieden noted special progress in the latter, underscored in 2015 by the World Health Organization declaring Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as free of the Ebola virus transmission.

“The least understood thing about Ebola is how close we were to global catastrophe,” Frieden said. “If it hadn’t been controlled in Lagos it would still be spreading all over Africa. We were literally days away from that happening.”

Frieden also discussed the Zika virus, calling it an unprecedented situation. He added that late last year CDC first hypothesized that “it might be associated with an outbreak of microcephaly,” a congenital condition linked with incomplete brain development.” This has not been proven, but Frieden said that researchers continue to study the possible link. More information about the virus can be found on APHA’s Zika web page.

Vector control is “a neglected area of public health,” according to Frieden, “and that needs to change.”

“We are literally learning more about this every single day,” he said. “We will do everything we can to learn more, to inform people and to do whatever we can to reduce the risk, (especially) for pregnant women, because that’s the most important thing we can do as far as what we know now.”