Obama's great choice for Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

The New York Times is reporting what had been until now a rumor too good to be true. Dr. Tom Frieden, currently the hard-driving activist NYC Commissioner of Health, will be the new head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Disclaimer: I have personal history with Tom.

Dr. Frieden has been a high profile, sometimes controversial, go-getter, always on the side of activist public health good.

He has shaken up the torpor in New York City, and national, public health circles by taking a evidenced-based activist approach:

As the NY Times, mentions he led the fight to reduce death dues to second hand smoking by banning from indoor smoking in public places, including the workplace, restaurants and bars.

Now that early treatment really makes a difference, he has led the fight to "normalize" H.I.V. testing as a routine part of medical exams, and help get people who are living with HIV/AIDS into early care.  Also having the health department pass out 35 million condoms a year.

In his earlier days as CDC assignee to NYC, he led the fight against multi-drug resistance tuberculosis, which as part of the earlier AIDS epidemic, was spreading, including in the U.S. and potentially among health care workers as well as the general public.

The NY Times does NOT mention some of his other recent activist public health intervention, which I loved, but was controversial for corporate food and some phony libertarians. This is the requirement for restaurants and other food establishment to post the nutritional contents of prepared and served food. Total calories, calories from fat and saturated fats, sugars etc.  Phony libertarians (i.e. corporate shills) protest this as somehow against their freedom.  Progressives, and honest libertarians, point out this is simply a matter for honest information upon which people can then make a truly knowledgeable independent choice.

In addition to tobacco, he gets that the real public health problems in the U.S. are related to our social-economic environment: matters of food and diet, exercise and physical activity, are not solely individual choices. They are very much economic, corporate, government, societal choices. And policy can have an effect.  It will be interesting to see if folks like the new FDA commissioner, and now CDC, and the rest of the Public Health team, can effect food policy and transportation policy, etc.

Also noteworthy, has been the proactive role the NYC health department has taken under his leadership, with the support of our city council, in rolling out health IT and electronic medical records for community health centers and others providing primary care for the underserved.  Also quality of care and "public health detailing" for diabetes and other chronic care.  These have had the effect of promoting higher quality, evidenced-based and standards-based care, but does "interfere" with physician autonomy, and some would argue, patient privacy.

FYI: For lefties who remember the Reagan era, Tom was active, back in the day, with organizations like CISPES.

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