Science and Tech


The CDC Is Restructuring Its Agency Amid Public Criticism

The CDC is now changing how it releases information to the public due to recent criticism from Americans.
Posted at 7:49 PM, Aug 18, 2022

Change is coming to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The goal is to regain the public's trust.  

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says the agency needs to respond much faster to outbreaks and share information in a way that isn't confusing. 

She told The Associated Press, "I feel like it's my responsibility to lead this agency to a better place after a really challenging three years."

"This will take a time, but we need to restore trust in the CDC," said CDC consultant Dr. William Schaffner.  

The shake-up comes after an internal review Walensky OKd in April. That report isn't out yet.  

Reorganized CDC plans include: using more outside preprint research instead of waiting for the CDC's own review and publication, requiring CDC leaders in an outbreak response role to devote a minimum of six months on the job, restructuring the agency's communications office and changing the CDC website to make it easier to understand. 

The CDC's long been criticized for confusing communication, and the COVID-19 pandemic put that center stage.  

The CDC, the American Medical Association, and the National Institutes of Health say public health information should be in between sixth through eighth grades. 

Newsy first reported in spring and summer 2020 that researchers found CDC guidance was written on average for someone with an 11th grade reading level.  

"Approximately three grade levels above the CDC's own recommendations," said Joseph Dexter, a Dartmouth Neukom Institute Fellow.

The criticism of the nation's health agency has grown throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as public confidence has dropped.  

A January 2022 poll found only 44% of Americans trusted what the CDC has communicated about the virus. 

That distrust grew with the Monkeypox outbreak. There's continuing criticism over the lack of vaccines and treatments, information and help. Currently, about one in three cases globally are in the U.S.  

It's uncertain how any reorganization would impact the current public health response to Monkeypox, or to COVID omicron boosters coming in the fall. 

"It is achievable, but it will take a change in mindset," Dexter said. 

Experts say constant updates with the public during it all will be key.