New York’s Commissioner of Health, it will be announced today, is about to become head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Dr. Thomas Frieden will replace the acting head of the Centers, Dr. Richard E. Besser. We mainly know Frieden for his health education campaigns, such as those concerning HIV and rats, and his conduct of the city’s swine flu preparedness and response, and for his hard stand against pigeon netting. The Neighborhood Retail Alliance, concentrating on his fast-food calorie-posting policy, says in its ungracious sendoff, “Frieden came across as an ill-informed scold-with little or no understanding of how local business worked.”
But in his new job Frieden will be responsible not only or even primarily for health education or the nannyish concerns of the Bloomberg Administration, but also for the government’s massive medical research facilities and, as the title implies, tracking and intervening in infectious diseases across the nation. Frieden has worked as an epidemiologist, and on tuberculosis control in India. The city Department of Health has a budget of $1.7 billion which, while not quite matching CDC’s $8.8 billion, gives him some experience running a large health organization.
He joins in Washington (figuratively — his office will be in Bethesda, Maryland) another former NYC DOH Commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, who is expected to be confirmed as head of the Food and Drug Administration. Photo (cc) Wikipedia.