The Senate GOP had been attempting to pass iterations of their healthcare bill over the last few weeks, resulting in a defeat. While the nation focused on fighting to preserve the ACA over the past few months, the following key public health decisions were made:
Surgeon General Appointed: Dr. Jerome Adams
On August 3rd, the Senate confirmed Dr. Jerome Adams as the 20th Surgeon General of the United States. His nomination was announced by President Trump on June 29th. Dr. Adams has previously served as the health commissioner for Indiana. During his time as health commissioner, Dr. Adams was a strong advocate in the fight against opioids and the HIV outbreak in Indiana. Critical in advising former Governor Mike Pence to authorize an initial 30-day emergency syringe exchange in 2015, his work on the ground ultimately led to legalizing syringe exchanges in the state.
Dr. Adams has been appointed to replace Sylvia Trent-Adams, acting surgeon general since President Trump asked Dr. Vivek H. Murthy to resign due to his stance on gun violence. Dr. Adams is the second health official from Indiana, Vice President Mike Pence’s home state. Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also from Indiana was confirmed on March 13, 2017 by a vote of 55 to 43. Although nominated by President Trump and a former colleague of Vice President Mike Pence, Dr. Jerome Adams had received bipartisan support for his nomination. Many praise Dr. Adams for his work on the opioid epidemic and HIV, along with his previous work on substance abuse. Additionally, Dr. Adams is a strong proponent of community models for fighting public health, connecting grassroots efforts to decision-makers; it is our hope that he continues this approach as the newly appointed Surgeon General.
Dr. Jerome Adams is the second male African American Surgeon General. The first male African American Surgeon General was Dr. David Satcher; Dr. Jocelyn Elders was the first African American Surgeon General.
His commitment to the opioid epidemic, fighting obesity, and increasing healthcare access is important to communities as South Los Angeles and across the state. The increase in deaths due to drug-poisoning has driven many to systematically counter the risks of long-term opioid therapy. Kaiser Permanente Southern California has recently implemented a transformative approach to address the epidemic by implementing policies and practices within their health systems. Having a Surgeon General continuing the fight against the opioid epidemic ensures that we as a nation, a state, and a community can also continue to dedicate resources to alleviating the opioid epidemic.
CDC Director: Brenda Fitzgerald
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, M.D., appointed Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald as the 17th Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) on July 7th, 2017.
Prior to this appointment, Dr. Fitzgerald served as the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health and state health officer, where she directed Georgia’s 18 public health districts and 159 county health departments. Dr. Fitzgerald has also previously worked as a health policy analyst for former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, tying her to two prominent Georgia Republicans. However, she has gained bipartisan support due to her experience.
Dr. Fitzgerald is known for her work in fighting against infant mortality, improving language development among babies, reducing tobacco use and fighting obesity. At a time when funding for the CDC is threatened and the country is confronting an epidemic of opioid abuse, outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Zika, and questioning the value of science, Dr. Fitzgerald believes “the most important job of the CDC director is to make sure that science rules as the foundation of public health and policy decisions.” While Dr. Fitzgerald fights against obesity, she has done so in the past by accepting $1 million from Coca-Cola to fund the Power Up program. The Power Up program requires students receive 30 minutes more exercise each day as part of Georgia Shape, a statewide initiative to reduce the Body Mass Index (BMI) of students. This revelation is controversial, as public health advocates cannot justify having an entity funding anti-obesity programs if they are also largely contributing to the problem.
Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. will replace Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, who directed the CDC for eight years before stepping down in January. Dr. Anne Schuchat has served as acting director since then.
The CDC funds programs that promote health equity in communities such as South Los Angeles therefore, including the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program, through which CHC and our partners have received funding for several multi-year grants. It is crucial that the CDC leadership can support such programs and fight for reliable funding to continue to reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes for all Americans.