CDC Poised to Answer President Obama’s Call to End MalariaPosted on by
In his State of the Union address January 12, President Obama issued an emphatic call to arms to end malaria worldwide.
“Right now, we’re on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS,” the President said in his annual address from Congress that was viewed by an estimated 30 million people.
“That’s within our grasp. And we have the chance to accomplish the same thing with malaria.”
Here, at CDC, we know that attacking malaria and moving aggressively to eliminate a disease that killed 438,000 people last year worldwide is a goal worthy of its mention in the State of the Union address. Moreover, the President’s comment highlighted a public health issue that has always been one of CDC’s highest priorities. CDC, after all, has been deeply involved in all facets of the fight against malaria since the agency was created in 1946 from a World War II era federal program called the Malaria Control in War Areas.
In the years since, CDC scientists and staff, working with partners at home and in countries around the world have achieved remarkable results, all while remaining firmly on the leading edge of the ambitious defeat of the disease.
Driven by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria since 2002, and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), which took root in 2005 under the direction of Agency for International Development co-implemented with CDC, along with global partners like the World Health Organization and Roll Back Malaria Partnership , 6.2 million lives have been saved since 2000. Worldwide, deaths from malaria have fallen by 48 percent over that same period. Closer to home, high-threat areas such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic are on the cusp of eliminating malaria by 2020.
CDC’s research and its boots-on-the-ground presence have contributed in major ways. Over the past 20 years, CDC investigators worked with national public health officials to demonstrate the life-saving impact of tools like insecticide-treated nets and preventive treatment for pregnant women and infants. CDC was among the first to deploy state-of-the-art combination drugs for treating the disease and counteracting drug resistance. Through PMI and the Global Fund, the US Government has helped these simple tools reach hundreds of millions of people.
A lot of work lies ahead, however. As the President suggested in his State of the Union address, conquering malaria requires a major and sustained commitment, similar to the focus on fighting HIV/AIDS.
While the number of people treated and protected from the disease is impressive, too many people still do not have access to the basics – bed nets and effective diagnosis and treatment. We need to develop and continually refine surveillance systems to better identify who’s at risk, and who’s infected and sick with malaria, in ways that allow us to anticipate and pinpoint hotspots, so we can make the best use of malaria prevention and treatment tools.
The President’s remarks draw attention to a health threat that is too often invisible to most Americans. While malaria is rare in the United States, with about 1,500 cases a year mostly among travelers who visit or return to the U.S., it is an all-too-common source of pain and misery in too many places. Worldwide, 3.4 billion people live in areas at risk of malaria transmission in 106 countries and territories.
The battle to end malaria isn’t easy. But as the President said, this is a battle we can win.