March 3, 2024

New CDC director to fight vaccine misinformation, trust broken

One lesson she learned as North Carolina hhealth sSecretary that is, it is not always the best way for public health guidance. Sometimes her team turned to religious leaders, NASCAR drivers, even TikTok influencers to get scientific information to the public.

“Certainly, the science and the data will be coming from the CDC. But there are many messengers that they trust,” she said. “This is a team effort.”

In his first few weeks, Cohen is not getting a summer break. Much of the United States is caught in an unrelenting deadly heat wave. The country faced its first malaria outbreak in 20 years, and the number of opioid-related deaths continues to rise. There are also concerns about another winter surge of respiratory viruses, including Covid, flu and RSV. Whether it’s a virus, a fire or a flood of mosquito-borne illnesses, investing in data is a big priority for Cohen.

A reevaluation of the CDC’s web pages is already underway to ensure that the information available to people is clear and understandable, Dr. Dan Jernigan, director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging Infectious and Zoonotic Diseases, said at a media briefing this week. “There are other efforts, as well, to get our data out faster,” said Jernigan.

Data is “very important,” Cohen said.Alyssa Pointer for NBC News

Data is “very important,” Cohen said. “You can’t solve problems you can’t see, and data helps you see where your problems are and then deploy resources.” After that, it will be critical for CDC scientists to be able to translate those issues. “We need to be crisp, clear communications so that people have sensible solutions to protect their health. It sounds simple, but it’s really difficult.”

For now, though, Cohen makes it look simple. She warmly welcomes everyone she sees at the CDC – from those in leadership roles to security guards. She asks them about their families and their worries, and she talks openly about her own. Cohen’s husband and two daughters plan to join her in Atlanta but have not yet made the move from North Carolina. “I miss them,” she said.

But she works hard to focus instead on reinfusing a spark into the work done at the CDC. On her first day, she played Alicia Keys and other music in the lobby to greet her new co-workers. “I like my music,” she said, shrugging and smiling.

“One of the values ​​I bring to work here is joy,” she said. “That’s not just about parties and celebrations; it’s about the connection to the mission. But you have to have a little fun at work to bring your A game. I really think the American people deserve everyone’s A Game.”

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