CDC direc­tor pledges to bring opi­oid epi­demic 'to its knees'

South Florida Times - - HEALTH - Opi­oid epi­demic MIKE STO­BBE AP Med­i­cal Writer

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NEW YORK - The new direc­tor of the top U.S. public health agency on Thurs­day pledged to work to bring the na­tion's opi­oid epi­demic “to its knees'' and said he be­lieves the AIDS epi­demic could be ended in three to seven years.

Dr. Robert Red­field Jr. made the com­ments at a staff meet­ing of the Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion in At­lanta.

Red­field started the job Mon­day, less than a week af­ter U.S. of­fi­cials an­nounced they were ap­point­ing him the CDC direc­tor.

The 66-year-old rose to promi­nence in the 1980s as a top re­searcher into the emerg­ing AIDS epi­demic. Health lead­ers widely praised his ap­point­ment, but many are wary of an ad­min­is­tra­tion that has been crit­i­cized for chal­leng­ing widely ac­cepted science on cli­mate change and other top­ics.

Since be­ing named CDC direc­tor, Red­field has de­clined me­dia in­ter­views. Dur­ing the 50-minute staff meet­ing at the CDC Thurs­day, Red­field said he is a firm be­liever in vac­cines and other public health strate­gies for pre­vent­ing disease and stop­ping its spread.

He called the opi­oid-driven surge in drug over­dose deaths “the public health cri­sis of our time,'' and he stressed the im­por­tance of get­ting treat­ment for ad­dicts and en­hanc­ing the CDC's track­ing of the epi­demic. “We will help bring this epi­demic to its knees,'' he said.

He also talked about his decades work­ing in AIDS re­search and treat­ment. “End­ing the AIDS epi­demic in Amer­ica is pos­si­ble,'' he said. “I think it can be done in the next three to seven years if we put our minds to it.''

He also told per­sonal sto­ries. One was about how his mother raised him and his younger brother and sis­ter af­ter the death of his fa­ther, a gov­ern­ment sci­en­tist, at age 32. An­other was about the death of his own son from com­pli­ca­tions re­lated to child­birth.

Red­field _ who ap­peared with his wife, Joy _ seemed to be warmly re­ceived, greeted by fre­quent laugh­ter and ap­plause.

The meet­ing was at a CDC au­di­to­rium, but it was also broad­cast over the in­ter­net and by phone to em­ploy­ees who couldn't at­tend. An As­so­ci­ated Press re­porter lis­tened in.

Red­field had been a fi­nal­ist for CDC direc­tor in 2002, but the job went in­stead to Dr. Julie Ger­berd­ing. On Thurs­day, he said he was “choked up'' about fi­nally get­ting the op­por­tu­nity to lead CDC.

“My job is to help you be able to do yours,'' he said. “I want to thank each of you for agree­ing to have trust in my lead­er­ship.''

STOCK PHOTO

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