CDC Makes Biggest Agency Changes Yet

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, is continuing her push to revamp the agency, creating new offices and leadership positions, MedPage Today has learned.

The vast majority of the organizations that live within the CDC will now report to the Immediate Office of the Director, which will replace what was previously described as a “Community of Practice” structure, according to someone who attended an internal staff meeting that took place today. The goal is to make sure all offices follow a shared vision and common goals.

Walensky also created the Office of Public Health Data, Surveillance, and Technology as part of the agency’s data modernization efforts. That office will be focused on building the data infrastructure necessary to ensure all levels of public health are armed with the data they need for critical decision making, the source said.

Last week, MedPage Today reported that the CDC made two new leadership appointments. Nirav Shah, MD, JD, the current director of the Maine CDC, will become the agency’s principal deputy director in March, and Debra Houry, MD, MPH, will become chief medical officer and deputy director for program and science.

Today, additional details about that leadership structure became clear. There will be a centralized leadership team of experts housed within the director’s office, which will include the director of the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry; the principal deputy director; the deputy director for program and science/chief medical officer; the deputy director for policy, communications, and legislative affairs/chief strategy officer; the deputy director for global health; the chief operating officer; and the chief of staff.

The agency also created a new leadership position, the director for external affairs, who will sit within the office of the chief of staff. This person will be tasked with strengthening relationships across government, academia, non-profits, and the business community, ensuring outside organizations will be able to navigate and partner with CDC.

Walensky also announced that CDC will consolidate its Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services and Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support into the National Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Public Health Infrastructure and Workforce. This center will help CDC better engage with jurisdictions and public health partners in order to build the public health system that will be needed for the future.

CDC is also creating an Office of Health Equity that will report to the director’s office, building on the agency’s efforts in that space, including its CORE program.

In addition, both the Office of Science and the Office of Laboratory Science and Safety will now report directly to the director’s office. The CDC publications Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and the Community Guide will move under the Office of Science.

Finally, the agency’s Center for Preparedness and Response will become the Office of Readiness and Response, the goal of which is to create a centralized office to promote accountability for all readiness and response efforts. Its Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics will report to the director of this new office.

CDC said the changes are aimed at improving efficiency, speeding up decision making, and strengthening communication of scientific information to the American public. An additional aim is to ensure that CDC science reaches the public in an understandable and accessible way, as quickly as possible.

  • Kristina Fiore leads MedPage’s enterprise & investigative reporting team. She’s been a medical journalist for more than a decade and her work has been recognized by Barlett & Steele, AHCJ, SABEW, and others. Send story tips to [email protected] Follow

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