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New CDC director an activist in public health

May 16, 2009
by Noam N. Levey
Los Angeles Times

In tapping New York City Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President Obama on Friday chose an official who has been on the front lines of the fight against swine flu.

Frieden, 48, helped lead New York's efforts over the last month to contain the spread of the disease, after the first concentrated outbreak in the U.S. was tied to a school in Queens.

Frieden will take over an agency that is working to repair its reputation after criticism that CDC science was politicized under President George W. Bush. Obama has pledged not to let politics and ideology influence policy decisions on science and medicine.

That should allow Frieden to focus the CDC on its dual missions of monitoring and controlling disease outbreaks and promoting public health, said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health, a Washington nonprofit that promotes disease prevention.

"He follows the science, which is actually what CDC needs now," Levi said.

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