By: Judy Monroe, MD, President and CEO, CDC Foundation
The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest threat to the world’s health, safety and security in more than 100 years. Tens of millions have been infected, more than a million have died and tremendous damage has been done to the global economy. Working collaboratively together across nations and across sectors is the only way to end this pandemic.
Early in 2020, it became clear that the coronavirus would reach the United States and spread as it did in China and Europe. Many questions emerged. How would the virus evolve and spread? Are we prepared? As planning began in hospitals and public health departments across the country, it was evident that we did not have the supplies and personnel needed to handle this surge, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators and the appropriate testing and contract tracers. This pandemic would quickly highlight why public health funding is so vital to the health, safety and security of our nation and world.
The CDC Foundation—an independent nonprofit created by Congress to extend the lifesaving work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—was rapidly called upon to support public health organizations in this extraordinary time. But it would take unprecedented mobilization to address gaps where public health funding would fall short. The generosity of more than 112,000 donors made it possible for the CDC Foundation to have immediate impact.
To date, individuals, philanthropies, organizations, corporations and government funders have committed $206 million for the CDC Foundation’s COVID-19 response, and the Foundation has deployed those funds in over 83 U.S. states, tribes and territories, as well as other countries. These initiatives have primarily bolstered response efforts in six areas: health equity, local on-the-ground response needs, communication needs, lab capacity and research, global response, and data and technology.
During this timeframe, the CDC Foundation has distributed 7.3 million pieces of PPE for frontline responders and worked with public health departments across the country to provide lab and medical equipment, support testing and hire 1,000 much-needed surge staff. We have also sponsored national communication campaigns to encourage handwashing, social distancing, mask wearing and provide resources for those feeling the mental health stresses of the pandemic.
A crucial task for the CDC Foundation has been supporting health equity as the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately taken a severe toll on racial and ethnic minority groups. Longstanding systemic health and social inequities have put Black, Latinx, and American Indian/Alaska Native and other communities at a higher risk. In addition, evidence points to higher rates of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 for these groups. We have worked with partners to better understand and address health inequity issues brought forward by COVID-19. This work cannot stop. Moving forward, we need to advance a health equity strategy to reduce disparities, facilitate meaningful engagement with communities, lead culturally-responsive outreach and reduce stigma.
The CDC Foundation is working closely with public health authorities nationwide to respond to the pandemic, and, today, we are in what many are calling a third wave, with a record number of cases being identified daily. The needs are still great.
Our hope is for an effective vaccine in early 2021; however, one or maybe even two effective vaccines will not address all the challenges presented by the pandemic. We must look forward to new innovations, new ideas and the new challenges we will need to overcome. Clearly, we also need to work across the philanthropic and business sectors to uplift our nation’s public health protection organizations and the first responders and public health workers who have sacrificed so much to protect us all. Trust in the science, the messages and messengers are essential to our nation’s health and economic well-being. While we all are growing tired of the pandemic and the impact it has taken in lives lost and livelihoods destroyed, now is not the time to pull back in our response.
Philanthropic support is urgently needed to provide critical resources and flexibility where government support is not available or available rapidly enough.
Georgia is the center for health and global health with CDC, important philanthropic and nonprofit organizations dedicated to public health, as well as world-renowned healthcare and research. Today, we have the capabilities to make a difference, and we are in the perfect position to work together to defeat COVID-19. Together our impact is greater.