July 9, 2019

CDC Director Discusses Important Public Health Issues for Arkansas

Stigma has no role in public health, said Robert Redfield, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during a visit June 27 to UAMS.

Speaking on “Partnering for a Healthier Arkansas,” he addressed ending epidemics, eliminating diseases, and securing global health and ensuring domestic preparedness.

Redfield presented to a room full of UAMS faculty, staff, and students in the Walton Auditorium. The two epidemics Redfield talked about were reducing opioid misuse and antimicrobial resistance.

“Addiction is a medical condition,” said Redfield. “We need to approach it the same way we do other diseases.”

CDC Director talk

Dr. Redfield address crowd during his talk.Bryan Clifton

He emphasized creating a climate that allows people to get the medical care they need. He discussed the value in having real time data solutions such as syndromic surveillance — gathering health-related data before a diagnosis to signal the likelihood of a public health issue —to help combat problems like the opioid epidemic. Arkansas is currently gathering such information from hospitals and clinics throughout the state

Redfield also discussed how to eliminate HIV, saying “Fifteen percent of people with HIV in Arkansas have not been diagnosed yet.”

Arkansas has 291 new cases of HIV diagnosis each year, which is the 20th highest rate in the country.

“We have the tools we need to end this epidemic in the U.S.,” said Redfield. “We can diagnose and lay out a treatment plan for those with HIV.”

Redfield discussed prevention interventions, like PrEP or Pre Exposure Prophylaxis, a medication that can be given to those at high risk for being exposed to HIV through sexual contact or injecting drugs.

“If we don’t do anything about this epidemic today, we can anticipate another 400,000 people being diagnosed each year, costing $200,000 million,” said Redfield.

He added that doing this now shows the value in putting science into action.

Redfield also discussed President Donald Trump’s HIV initiative challenging the country to reduce new infection by 75% in the next 5 years.

At a news conference earlier in the day, Redfield announced that Arkansas will be a recipient of funding tied to this new initiative due to its high rate of HIV infection in the country.

Crowd Listens

Crowd listens to Dr. Redfield’s talk.Bryan Clifton

He also talked about ways to prevent vaccine preventable diseases. He challenged health care professionals to spend more time helping parents understand the risk of not vaccinating their children.

He said the most important tool is to not underestimate the threat to society posed by people not getting vaccinated.

As CDC director, Redfield oversees the nation’s health protection agency. The CDC serves as the national focus for developing and applying disease prevention and control, environmental health, and health promotion and health education activities designed to improve the health of the people of the U.S.