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Public Statements

The Centers for Disease Control

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BROWN. I thank Senator Isakson. I am so appreciative of the work the Senator has done with the Centers for Disease Control in his home State of Georgia. There is no Federal agency that is quite like the CDC in this country or across the world.

Our Nation's fiscal health cannot be strengthened at the expense of our Nation's public health. In the 21st century it is easy to overlook this country's public health safety net. Too often we take for granted that our children are not being crippled by polio or dying from whooping cough because we have immunizations. We take for granted that we have stronger teeth and less tooth decay because of water fluoridation in many of our communities. We take for granted that few people in this country now die of infectious diseases such as cholera and tuberculosis because we have made the kind of remarkable progress we have in sanitation, in hygiene, antibiotics, and disease surveillance. We take these advancements for granted because for over six decades the CDC has been doing an extraordinary job of ensuring Americans have basic health protections.

The CDC's work, along with that of other public health advocates and researchers, is credited with increasing the average American's life expectancy over the last many decades, increasing the average American's life expectancy by 25 years--25 years, a quarter of a century longer because of our investment in public health.

The CDC's reach and responsibility, as intimated by Senator Isakson, is not limited by our country's borders. Due to globalization it matters a great deal how other countries respond to health threats. The CDC plays an essential role in helping its international partners react to these threats.

The CDC is the gold standard, the global leader in disease prevention and public health preparedness. Other nations follow our lead. Yet the CDC's leadership is not guaranteed. Even with its topnotch facilities and world-class staff, the CDC faces challenges to this continued leadership. The CDC's base budget authority is at its lowest level in a decade.

The fiscal year 2013 budget is about $600 million below its fiscal year 2012 level. This reduction undercuts the health security of all Americans, even those who never once think of the existence of the Centers for Disease Control. The reduction in the CDC budget has harmful, immediate, and long-term consequences across the United States and around the world. This reduction affects the ability of our State and local health departments to provide on-the-ground services.

As my friend from Georgia explained during his discussion of the deadly fungal meningitis outbreak, funding the CDC is critical to the foundation of our public health. When we invest in CDC, we invest in the health of families in Lorain, OH, and Cuyahoga Falls, OH. When we invest in CDC, we support programs such as the Epidemiology Laboratory Capacity Program which addresses infectious disease threats.

When we invest in the CDC, we ensure that our State and local health departments on the frontlines are able to detect the first signs of outbreak. Without this critical funding, we leave ourselves vulnerable to the initial spread of health threats, such as fungal meningitis and emerging new diseases such as the MERS coronavirus and the novel H7N9 avian flu virus, which we read about. Unfortunately, public health departments across the Nation have already lost thousands of jobs and will lose more if our support of CDC continues to dwindle.

Before turning it back over to Senator Isakson, I would like to emphasize a point he made. The CDC responds to long-term health threats as well as to urgent immediate health dangers. These threats don't make the headlines. So much of CDC's work you never hear about, you never read about
because of its name, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention is such an important part of this. CDC continues a longstanding tradition of working in partnership with many international organizations and global partners to ensure that our country takes the lead in stopping these threats.

I have had the pleasure of seeing CDC's dedicated, expert staff working in Africa, in Atlanta, in communities such as Medina County, OH, and all over the world, working to keep these countries and our communities healthier, safer, and helping to keep all Americans safe as well.

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Mr. BROWN. I yield to the Senator.

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Mr. BROWN. I thank the Senator from Georgia. I think that is exactly the point. While perhaps those who know CDC--obviously in the State of Georgia people know it more intimately than in my State. They more likely think of CDC doing something in Africa or Asia, not so much what it means locally. We know that our hospitals, for instance, are sometimes havens for high health care costs and unnecessary illnesses due to infections acquired in the hospital and antibiotic-resistant superbugs such as CRE--a family of germs with high levels of resistance to antibiotics. I wonder if my friend is familiar with CDC's work in these areas and if he would expand on that.

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Mr. BROWN. That is certainly right. It seems there are new emerging and potentially dangerous health threats. We obviously know of the disease--the acquired infection you just mentioned. We know now of the H7N9 bird flu and MERS. How does the Senator see CDC's unique role in tracking and attempting to prevent the spread of these threats before they reach our shores, before we in American hospitals such as Grady Memorial or at MedCentral of Ohio might be victims of that?

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Mr. BROWN. If the Senator would yield for a moment, MERS was identified recently, and CDC scientists developed and shipped a diagnostic kit to be used in the field. To talk about one--when I talk to people about public health and certainly the importance of NIH but especially the focus on public health by CDC, we talk about polio and what CDC did to address and not quite yet wipe out but in our country certainly wipe out--and in most of the rest of the world--the polio virus. Give us a little bit of history on how important that was and what we learned from that, if you would, Senator Isakson.

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Mr. BROWN. I wish to close with a personal story about polio. My brother, born in 1947--there are three of us, three boys. My brother is the oldest, my brother Bob. When he was in about the first, second, or maybe the third grade, my father, who was a local family physician in Mansfield, was asked by--if not the CDC, some national health organization to give polio vaccines in Mansfield, OH. There were doctors in other communities who were asked to do that. They chose my father in part because he was a good doctor. They also chose him because he had son, he had a child who was in second or third or fourth grade at the time.

People were afraid. They weren't sure about injecting that vaccine into their arm because a lot of families thought that actually could cause polio. There was always that fear. Scientists didn't believe that, but an awful lot of people did.

There was a picture on the front page of the Mansfield News Journal in the 1950s of my brother getting a polio vaccine. I believe his was Salk. Sabin came later with the cube. He got the Salk vaccine, administered by my dad. CDC or one of the other public health groups--I apologize, I don't know which--made sure that happened all over the country so people could be more reassured. That was really the beginning, with Salk and then Sabin, of the eradication of polio in this country.

It is hard to think back--the Presiding Officer is not old enough--Senator Isakson and I can remember with our parents the fear, until the end of the 1950s, of parents that their child would go swimming and might come back, as Franklin Roosevelt did, with a case of polio. Whatever the causes, that virus spreading scared so many people.

In these days of hyper-partisanship consuming Washington, I appreciate the work of Senator Isakson, working together with CDC because this is far and above, far and away more important than any kinds of political differences that we might have.

I will let Senator Isakson close.

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