US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield said that non-coronavirus public health initiatives have been sidetracked during the pandemic, in an interview with WebMD chief medical officer John Whyte on Wednesday.
Redfield said the “collateral damage” of the pandemic is evident in that public health officials have been forced to turn their focus away from issues such as preventing maternal mortality, addressing AIDS, treating people for Hepatitis C, and preventing tobacco use in children.
“There are thousands and thousands of people working 24/7 on this pandemic,” Redfield said. “The fact is that, really, all of our focus is on this pandemic right now.”
Still, the pandemic has exposed the ways in which the nation’s public health capabilities have fallen short.
“We have some states that were down to less than 40, 30, 20 contact tracers,” Redfield said.
“We really haven't invested, in this nation, in the core capabilities of public health,” he added. “Now is the time to invest in public health – data, data analytics, predictive data analysis, laboratory resilience in our public health labs, public health workforce.”
Redfield said we owe it to our children and grandchildren to make sure the nation is never this unprepared for a future public health crisis.
“This is the greatest public health crisis to hit this nation in a century,” Redfield said. “We were underprepared.”