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CDC Director Sets Priorities for Global Health

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thomas Frieden, the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has outlined six priorities for improving the health in the US and globally.

Frieden gave a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington last week, highlighting the dangers of smoking, AIDS, obesity, teen pregnancy, auto injuries and healthcare-associated infections.

“Tobacco is now the world's leading single cause of death,” he told gathered participants. “It kills more people than AIDS, TB and malaria combined. And unlike those conditions, which are decreasing, it is increasing as a cause of death.”

Each year, an estimated 443,000 Americans die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, while another 8.6 million have smoking-related illnesses.

Frieden called for wider implementation of a World Health Organization policy package, which includes smokefree workplaces, restrictions on advertising and increases on tobacco taxes.

Another major killer, he said, are traffic accidents. More than a million people die each year in such accidents, including pedestrians and cyclists.

The CDC estimates the costs of medical care and loss of productivity from traffic injuries is nearly $99 billion a year in the US.

Without urgent action, Frieden said, traffic accidents could rise to become the fifth-leading cause of death over the next 20 to 25 years.

To take overall global health further, Frieden marked for attack high blood pressure, tobacco use, high glucose levels, physical inactivity, obesity and high cholesterol levels.

“Non-communicable disease has now killed more people around the world than communicable diseases,” he said. “There are also increasing as a burden and as a threat to socio-economic development.”

Meanwhile, AIDS continues to command a high priority in the global health sector, with a continuous rise in the number of people living with HIV and AIDS, he said.