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Two Initiatives Worth Their Salt: Reducing Sodium Intake in Philadelphia and Shandong, China

Categories: cardiovascular disease, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)

September 29 is World Heart Day.

September 29 is World Heart Day.

Background information

Barbara Bowman, Ph.D., Director, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC

Barbara Bowman, Ph.D., Director, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC

CDC’s 2013 Vital Signs publication reported that more than 200,000 deaths among Americans younger than age 75 are preventable. These deaths from heart disease and stroke, both primary contributors to cardiovascular disease (CVD), could be prevented through better lifestyle practices and better care. Heart disease and stroke are two of our nation’s leading causes of death, responsible for nearly 1 in 3 deaths in the US each year. Globally, hypertension accounts for almost one-half of heart attacks and strokes. In China alone, CVD caused an estimated 3.5 million deaths in 2008.

Excess sodium intake is a key risk factor for hypertension, and reducing sodium intake is a global and domestic public health priority. A 2007 study found that reducing average population sodium intake by 15% in 23 low- and middle-income countries (bearing 80% of the chronic disease burden) could prevent 8.5 million deaths over 10 years, at a cost of only $0.05 / person / year (see footnote #1). In China and in the US, average sodium consumption is in excess of recommendations (see footnote #2). Primary sources of sodium vary depending on the country: the primary sources of sodium in the US are packaged and restaurants foods, while in China it is salt added during cooking. Thus, efforts to reduce sodium consumption in each country focus on their respective primary contributors to sodium intake.

Shandong Province is the third most populous province in China with 96 million residents. Rates of hypertension and salt intake in adults are higher than the national average; Shandong Province is also one of the largest salt producers in China. To reduce the burden of hypertension, in 2011China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission (formerly the Ministry of Health) and Shandong provincial government, with technical assistance provided by US CDC, launched the first comprehensive salt reduction project in China: the Shandong Province & Ministry of Health Action on Salt and Hypertension (SMASH). The goal of SMASH is to: 1) reduce daily salt intake from 12.5 grams/day to 10 grams/day by 2015; and 2) improve hypertension control within the province.

In order to reduce salt intake, food labeling, reformulating local cuisine, distribution of scaled spoons for measurement of salt use in cooking, and food industry product reformulation are being broadly adopted. The initiative works with restaurants to develop sodium standards for Shandong cuisine, including, developing and conducting chef training and contests to provide lower salt menu items and recipes track salt usage, and disseminate educational resources. Restaurants that follow the lower salt requirement are designated a “Distinguished Restaurant”.

Philadelphia, also interested in reducing salt intake as part of its Get Healthy Philly initiative, launched the Philadelphia Healthy Chinese Take-out Initiative in 2012, a joint effort of the Philadelphia Chinese Restaurant Association, the Center for Asian Health of Temple University, the Asian Community Health Coalition and the Department of Health (DOH), to improve access to healthier food options. In an effort to control and prevent high blood pressure, the initiative aims to reduce the sodium content in Chinese take-out dishes by 10-15%. BetweenJuly, 2012 and April, 2013, 206 restaurants of more than 400 agreed to participate in the initiative. Philadelphia Healthy Chinese Take-out Initiative provided a series of free cooking trainings for owners and chefs on low salt cooking techniques. These included enhancing flavor with herbs and spices, using lower sodium ingredients such as reduced sodium soy sauce, modifying recipes to use ½ the amount of prepared sauce in dishes, and limiting distribution of soy sauce packets to customers. Marketing materials for owners and consumers to promote awareness of the initiative were also developed and distributed. DOH staff collected and analyzed samples of two popular dishes from 20 restaurants to assess changes in sodium content since the program began: preliminary results show an average of a 10% reduction in sodium content over the past two years.

After learning about US sodium reduction efforts via CDC’s Salt e-Update, SMASH officials have been working with Philadelphia Healthy Chinese Take-out Initiative to share information on their respective sodium reduction initiatives. Shandong shared CDC sodium fact sheets translated to Chinese with Philly, which assisted Philly in communicating with participating restaurant operators who only speak Chinese. Philly has provided Shandong with program insights and experience on monitoring and evaluation as well as program scope. Continued discussions will allow both communities to better communicate and share enhanced recipes, cooking techniques, and chef training materials with restaurants to reduce sodium in their menus. Expanded dialogue will also allow both projects to share lessons learned and fine tune efforts around training restaurants to reduce sodium, conducting public education campaigns focused on sodium reduction, and collecting baseline survey data to help inform targeted strategies for sodium reduction.

While the US continues to make progress in achieving our national CVD goals for sodium intake, there remains great opportunity to achieve more. Active engagement with global partners not only provides the unique opportunity to share our expertise and knowledge but to also leverage existing global efforts to enhance our knowledge and improve domestic approaches. SMASH and Philly’s Healthy Chinese Take-out Initiative share similar goals and approaches and are leveraging resources and experiences to enhance their respective programs.

To learn more:

  • CDC Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention
    The mission of the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (DHDSP) is to provide public health leadership to improve cardiovascular health for all, reduce the burden, and eliminate disparities associated with heart disease and stroke.
  • Sodium
    Most of the sodium we consume is in the form of salt, and the vast majority of sodium we consume is in processed and restaurant foods. Too much sodium can increase your blood pressure and your risk for a heart attack and stroke. Heart disease and stroke is the leading cause of death in the US.
  • Sodium Reduction Toolkit: A Global Opportunity to Reduce Population-Level Sodium Intake
    The toolkit is designed to provide international and national government agencies and public health organizations with a brief overview, tools, and information for developing and implementing sodium reduction programs, policies, and initiatives aimed at lowering sodium intake. The toolkit offers seven self-guided modules, each about 30 minutes to complete. (Chinese modules are currently hosted on a Chinese site through US CDC China office.)
  • High Blood Pressure
    High blood pressure is a common and dangerous condition. Having high blood pressure means the pressure of the blood in your blood vessels is higher than it should be. But you can take steps to control your blood pressure and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • The Shandong Province and Ministry of Health Action on Salt and Hypertension (SMASH)
  • Healthy Chinese Takeout Initiative

Ebola Requires the World’s United Action

Categories: Ebola, global health security


This blog is cross-posted on the White House website.


White House

The nations of the world, along with key international organizations, gather at the White House today to advance a Global Health Security Agenda that will help keep the world safe from infectious disease threats.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden

This meeting is a critical opportunity to increase international commitment and, more importantly, action to stop the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and the infectious disease threats to come.

Ebola is a critical issue for the world community. There’s a real risk to the stability and security of societies, as governments are increasingly challenged to not only control Ebola but to provide basic health services and other government functions. The stability of these countries and their economies, as well as those of their neighbors and of others, is at increasing risk.

Ebola is the most recent tragic example of why it is imperative to work together to make the world safer from infectious disease outbreaks. Ebola is precisely the kind of health threat the Global Health Security Agenda could have prevented. We and our partner countries have agreed to work together so that effective prevention, detection, and response mechanisms are present in every country around the world.

There are three key actions we must take:

  1. Prevent avoidable catastrophes and epidemics. We can only do this if we track health threats and work strategically to prevent emergence and spread.
  2. Detect threats early. This requires real-time disease tracking and effective systems to identify clusters of illness and to do the laboratory tests, including collecting outbreak specimens and safely and securely transporting them for accurate laboratory testing.
  3. Respond rapidly and effectively. Each country needs trained disease detectives. These individuals can work most effectively in interconnected emergency operations centers connected with response capacity ready to spring into action.

CDC has many years of experience assisting countries throughout the world with public health emergency detection and response capacity. Recent demonstration projects in Uganda and Vietnam created emergency operations centers, national laboratory systems, and real-time information systems, and are a proof of principle that global health security systems can be rapidly implemented and used immediately to find and stop health threats.

Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prepares to don googles before entering the Ebola treatment unit (ETU), ELWA 3. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders operates the ELWA 3 ETU, which opened on August 17.

Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prepares to don goggles before entering the Ebola treatment unit (ETU), ELWA 3.

Last year, I visited urban and rural areas in Uganda to review the progress of this pilot project and I was deeply impressed; this project is one of the highest impact initiatives CDC has undertaken in my time as director. Progress improving disease detection and response in these countries shows that such models can work on a global scale.

One critical need is to train disease detectives around the world so that they can close gaps in surveillance and detect disease outbreaks as early as possible. CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service program is a global model for this type of training.

Since the 1980s, we’ve helped 40 other countries develop their own similar training. Trainees and graduates of these programs find and stop hundreds of outbreaks a year, usually without CDC’s direct involvement, which is exactly the result that we will see the more we invest in smart and effective programs like this one. In fact, graduates of these programs from Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, and Tanzania have been working on the ground to help stop the current Ebola outbreak.

It is increasingly clear that the health of other nations has a direct impact on health in the United States—infectious diseases do not recognize borders, and a disease outbreak is just a plane trip away.

Strengthening global health security will protect Americans, and protect people from around the world.

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What is Rabies?

Categories: rabies

3 dogs

Healthy Animals, Healthy People

















Ryan M. Wallace, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Ryan M. Wallace, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Most people in the United States know rabies as a rare and terrifying disease, ending in almost certain death. However, it’s not usually something they think about, except when the reminder card arrives from their veterinarian that their pet needs its rabies vaccine booster. Even then, they probably are not considering how important that shot is to not only keep their pet safe, but also as a barrier from exposure to rabid wildlife. In addition, that single shot is a critical tool in an international battle to prevent the tens of thousands of human deaths from this disease every year.

I occasionally hear stories from friends and family members who worry about rabies. I once talked to a woman who didn’t give rabies a second thought until she was deployed to Senegal as part of the Peace Corps. Her biggest fear was getting bitten by a stray dog and contracting a disease she might not be able to recover from.

Or consider the young professional who told me a story about traveling abroad and getting bitten by a stray dog on a beach. He panicked and didn’t know if that bite was his death sentence. Thanks to decades of public health interventions, canine rabies has been eliminated in the United States. However, what most people do not realize is that approximately three quarters of the world’s population currently lives in a country where rabies is an ever-present threat.

As the Veterinary Medical Officer for the CDC Rabies team, I’ve seen the toll rabies has taken on families around the world. In Taiwan, I had the difficult task of assessing a young puppy that was attacked by a wild ferret badger during a rabies outbreak. While there were no visible wounds, we could not rule out that the puppy had been exposed to rabies. The unfortunate recommendation was to either euthanize the puppy or quarantine it for six months. The family was poor, subsiding on a small farming plot; the cost for quarantine was seemingly out of reach. Yet the family scraped together the funds and paid for the quarantine. Unfortunately, four weeks later the puppy developed signs of rabies and was euthanized. The compassion this family showed for their puppy was amazing, but in the absence of qualified rabies control officials, the consequences could have been dire if the dog had remained at home.

CDC Veterinary Epidemiologist, Ryan Wallace, trains veterinarians at a spay/neuter clinic in Ethiopia. In many parts of the world standard veterinary services, an integral component of rabies control, are not present. CDC is collaborating with the Ethiopian government, Gondar University, and Ohio State University to help improve veterinary infrastructure to keep animals healthier, and prevent rabies.

CDC Veterinary Epidemiologist, Ryan Wallace, trains veterinarians at a spay/neuter clinic in Ethiopia. In many parts of the world standard veterinary services, an integral component of rabies control, are not present. CDC is collaborating with the Ethiopian government, Gondar University, and Ohio State University to help improve veterinary infrastructure to keep animals healthier, and prevent rabies.
Photo by Ally Sterman, OC Hubert Fellow, Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine

Earlier this year I was in Haiti helping the local government train veterinary staff on humane euthanasia of suspected rabid animals. During the training, a veterinarian received a call from a young man who was bitten by his dog. Like many dogs in Haiti, this family pet was allowed to roam freely around the community. Three months prior to the call, the pet came home with a bite wound to his back leg. The family thought nothing of it; dog fights are common, especially among young male dogs in the neighborhood. It was now three months later and the dog was in a full rage. When the young man opened his door on this particular morning his dog lunged at him, leaving two deep bite wounds in his hand. The family was trapped inside their house for several hours until we arrived to safely euthanize the animal. Even though this animal was obviously ill, and had bitten two people, the family was still distraught by the thought of losing their beloved pet.

In Ethiopia, while assisting with a rabies vaccination clinic for dogs, we saw that people had walked for hours to get their dogs vaccinated. In particular, two boys waited more than six hours to have their dogs protected from this deadly disease. In all of the places I have traveled, I have witnessed the same truth: the human-animal bond is deep and universal, but dog-transmitted rabies is a far too familiar story for those of us who work in this field.

So what is rabies? To people in the United States, it may be something that is rarely considered. To most of the world, it is likely something they have intimately experienced. In the public health world, rabies is defined as a neglected tropical disease (NTD). Why is this? How does it happen? Some NTDs don’t cause enough deaths to be a priority to many. Some NTDs are found only in poor parts of the world, where other public health issues take priority. Some NTDs, for various reasons, do not attract international attention. Those of us working on preventing NTDs often spend more time advocating for elimination of the disease than we do actually fighting it.

What is often frustrating for those of us who are passionate about preventing NTDs like rabies is that, unlike many NTDs, rabies is vaccine-preventable. In fact, there are over 20 different approved rabies vaccines for more than six animal species (and people too!). In addition to those vaccines, there are also step-by-step recommendations developed by world experts that have been proven, when followed, to successfully eliminate canine rabies. Yet despite the existence of effective vaccines and proven successful interventions, more than 55,000 people die each year from an easily preventable disease. 95% of these deaths can be attributed to a bite from a rabid dog. All of these deaths at the jaws of rabid dogs, even though in most parts of the world it costs less than one U.S. dollar to protect a dog against rabies.

World Rabies Day was created in 2007 as a way to raise awareness for this NTD. As a veterinarian working in the public health field, I cannot imagine a more rewarding NTD to fight against and advocate for prevention. I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel the world, not only to save human lives, but also to advocate for healthier, happier animals. In my travels, I am reminded of how important and loved animals are to the families with whom they share homes.

So this Word Rabies Day please take a moment to thank all of the hard-working people who spend every day to prevent you and your pets from catching this fatal disease. Thank your veterinarian for keeping your pets healthy. Thank your local animal control officer, who just tussled with that rabid fox in your backyard. Thank that doctor who reminded you to get those rabies shots before your vacation to any one of the 150 rabies-endemic countries. Hug your dogs if they are vaccinated, and get them vaccinated if they are not! (Then hug them.)

Finally, in honor of World Rabies Day, I’d like to highlight some of the many great stories about how the rabies work of CDC and our collaborators impacts the lives of families around the world:


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What it’s REALLY like fighting Ebola in Liberia

Categories: Ebola, global health security, infectious disease


This blog was originally posted on the on September 11, 2014.


A Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) staff member ties the face mask of Dr. Jordan Tappero, CDC, before Dr. Tappero enters the Ebola treatment unit (ETU), ELWA 3. MSF operates the ELWA 3 ETU, which opened on August 17.

A Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) staff member ties the face mask of Dr. Jordan Tappero, CDC, before Dr. Tappero enters the Ebola treatment unit (ETU), ELWA 3. MSF operates the ELWA 3 ETU, which opened on August 17.

Jordan W. Tappero, MD, MPH

Jordan W. Tappero, MD, MPH

During my time in Liberia, I have tried not to provide much detail to my family about the day-to-day work we are doing.

I don’t want to cause alarm or propagate fear; conditions in Monrovia can at times be deeply troubling.

I have spent the past month working to help control the Ebola outbreak in Liberia as part of the United States Government’s Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART.

Our work here has been nonstop and it doesn’t appear that the end of the epidemic will be anytime soon. There are days when there is palpable tension in the air, especially when a new community experiences Ebola virus transmission for the first time, or experiences a second or third wave of disease.

An Important Partnership in Central America

Categories: health systems strengthening


Central America

On the streets of Tegucigalpa or San Salvador or Santo Domingo or in the capitals of five other Central American countries, few people would be able to provide an answer to this question: What is the Council of Ministers of Health of Central America’s (COMISCA)?

Dr. Nelson Arboleda, CDC Central American Regional Office Director

Dr. Nelson Arboleda, CDC Central American Regional Office Director

Despite the understandable lack of awareness, COMISCA has emerged as an important—and effective—mechanism for improving public health across the region. It has unified eight disparate nations into a singular force in the fight against leading causes of death and illness. CDC is one of COMISCA’s prime partners.

COMISCA’s mandate and reason for existence, in fact, is both straightforward and crucial: improve public health in a part of the world beset by health challenges, strained budgets, and technical limitations by joining forces and combining resources. The idea is that by locking arms, sharing data and logistics, and agreeing on a public health blueprint, people in every country will be better protected from illness.

Indonesia Takes a Leadership Position in the Global Health Security Agenda

Categories: global health security

Maluku mom and kid with mosquito bed net (Photo courtesy of Edi Purnomo, UNICEF)

Photo courtesy of Edi Purnomo, UNICEF

Dr. William Hawley, Country Director for CDC-Indonesia

Dr. William Hawley, Country Director for CDC-Indonesia

As the world’s fourth most populated country, Indonesia plays an important strategic role in protecting the global community from infectious disease threats. As one of the early countries to take a leadership role in the Global Health Security (GHS) Agenda, the Government of Indonesia will welcome senior health and agricultural leaders from 36 countries and 12 international organizations for the next commitment meeting August 20-21. The meeting, “Building Global Commitment to Multisectoral Approaches to Manage Emerging Zoonotic Diseases in Support of the Global Health Security Agenda within the Framework of Public Health”, demonstrates the progress and growing momentum of the GHS Agenda.

The High Stakes in Fighting Ebola: Leave One Burning Ember and the Epidemic Could Re-Ignite

Categories: Ebola, global disease detection, global health security, health systems strengthening, infectious disease


This blog was originally posted on the Huffington Post on August 7, 2014.


A banner encouraging people suffering from Ebola to go immediately to a health center for treatment is seen on a sidewalk in the city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. While the Ebola virus outbreak has now reached four countries, Liberia and Sierra Leone account for more than 60 percent of the deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The outbreak that emerged in March has claimed at least 932 lives. (AP Photo/Michael Duff)

(AP Photo/Michael Duff)

CDC and our partners are currently fighting the biggest and most complex outbreak of Ebola virus disease ever recorded.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden

There are hundreds of cases in West Africa and now a new cluster of cases in Nigeria is very concerning. The spread of Ebola shows what happens if we don’t have meticulous infection control, contact tracing, and proper isolation of those with symptoms of the disease.

There are two things that are very important to understand about how Ebola spreads.

The evidence suggests that Ebola only spreads from sick people—not from people who have been exposed to the disease but haven’t yet become sick from it. The illness has an average 8-10 day incubation period, although in rare instances the incubation period may be as short as two days or as long as 21 days, which is why we recommend monitoring for 21 days after any potential exposure.

Global Health Security in Africa: Collaborations Between CDC and African Partners

Categories: global health security

2012 investigation of Ebola virus in Uganda

2012 investigation of Ebola virus in Uganda

Thomas Kenyon, MD MPH, Director of CDC Center for Global Health

Thomas Kenyon, MD MPH, Director of CDC Center for Global Health

The ambition and scope of the Global Health Security Agenda are clear. Its reach can be discerned from the very first word: global. The Agenda’s overarching goal is just as expansive—making the world safer and more secure by preventing epidemics and outbreaks, detecting them more rapidly, and responding effectively to lessen the health, economic, and societal consequences from disease threats.

Less obvious, but no less true, is that African ownership will be central and fundamental in shaping the way the Global Health Security Agenda evolves worldwide, the way it is enacted and refined, and to a large extent, how it succeeds.

CDC and African nations have been close and successful partners for many decades in the battle to protect and improve public health. In many ways, the concepts, practices, and tools that are central to the Global Health Security Agenda are drawn from experiences honed with our partners in Africa over many years.

Strengthening Vaccination Systems – how it STARTs

Categories: immunization

On the road to Bukwo District (photo courtesy of George Momanyi)

On the road to Bukwo District (photo courtesy of George Momanyi)

George Momanyi, Public Health Nurse, START Consultant

George Momanyi, Public Health Nurse, START Consultant

George Momanyi, a public health nurse from Kenya, has twice served as a consultant with CDC’s Strengthening Technical Assistance for Routine Immunization Training (START) project in Uganda.  START, funded through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provides mentoring and on-the-job training to district-level immunization officers and service providers in areas with high numbers of unimmunized children. START consultants make regular visits to district health officers and service providers, delivering training and reinforcing the application of practical job skills.  START’s objective is to build the capacity of program staff and thereby strengthen the overall immunization system. 

As a START consultant, George worked in eastern Uganda from July-December 2013, and in northern Uganda from February-June 2014. As he was ending his service on the 2nd START team in June, he sent us this blog about his experience.

CDC Scientist Fights Chikungunya

Categories: chikungunya, mosquito-borne disease

investigation in Comoros in 2005.

Investigation in Comoros in 2005.

Ann Powers, Ph.D., Research Microbiologist and Chief of the Alphavirus Laboratory in CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases

Ann Powers, Ph.D., Research Microbiologist and Chief of the Alphavirus Laboratory in CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases

One of the most telling signs of the complexity surrounding chikungunya is that educating people on pronouncing the name correctly is perhaps the easiest challenge.

I’m exposed to that truth more than most.  And for the record, it’s pronounced chick-un-goon-ya.

As a research microbiologist for CDC’s National Center for Emerging Zoonotic and Infectious Diseases, my job is to better understand and occasionally chase (literally) an often overlooked, mosquito-borne, threat to public health; one that holds the potential to spread sickness and misery in the United States.

Chikungunya is viral disease that is transmitted to people by two species of mosquitoes that are present in the United States. Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, often called the Asian tiger mosquito, can be found in about a third of the U.S.  They are the same mosquito species that transmit dengue in much of the tropics.  And while chikungunya does not kill people, the toll it inflicts ranks high on the misery index; it hits fast and hard and with almost no subtlety. People infected with chikungunya typically experience high fever and severe joint pain soon after they are exposed. Sometimes those problems are long-lasting.

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