WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says public health and disease prevention efforts promote productivity and global stability.
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, in a speech on the state of the nation's health security in Washington Tuesday, said the United States must not just protect itself from so-called superbugs, disasters and leading causes of death -- it must also remain involved in promoting global health.
"We need to make sure that we're not only protecting ourselves from diseases that can spread from elsewhere, but also learning lessons that can be learned elsewhere, sometimes more efficiently and effectively," Frieden said in the speech at the National Press Club. "We're also promoting stability around the world. We're increasing economic productivity around the world and lifting all boats by having healthier communities.
"And ultimately, our work in global health is so important to do because it's the right thing to do, because we're a great country and because for a very small investment, we can make a massive change in the lives of literally billions of people," he said.
Frieden said an outbreak of disease "reminds us that we're all connected by the air we breathe, that an outbreak anywhere is a risk everywhere," but he said critics of public health mistakenly believe it is "no longer needed because we have healthcare, expansion of healthcare access."
"Well, public health is not healthcare for poor people," he said. "Public health is healthcare and health for everyone."
Frieden noted that the CDC budget authority is the lowest it has been in decades, and across-the-board federal spending cuts known as sequestration have led to cuts in advanced molecular detection, so "there are outbreaks happening today that we're not able to recognize, stop or prevent as effectively as we should be able to."
He said state and local governments have cut 46,000 public health jobs in recent years and sequestration "added thousands of more job losses to that. So every time someone is not there to identify an outbreak that started, to stop it promptly, or to prevent it effectively, we're putting people at risk in a way that could have been avoided."