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Akron Univ. School of Law

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dr. Thomas Frieden: New Head of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Associated Press reports on President Obama's selection for head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Dr. Thomas Frieden, currently New York's Health Commissioner.  The AP's story provides,

For seven years, Dr. Thomas Frieden has been the nagging conscience of the nation's biggest city, the man who made sure New Yorkers couldn't smoke in bars or eat french fries cooked in artery-clogging trans fats. Now, the city's health commissioner will be taking his crusade against unhealthy living national as the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

President Barack Obama announced Friday that he has picked the 48-year-old Frieden to lead the public health agency, where he will be faced with some immediate decisions on how to deal with the swine flu outbreak, including whether to produce a vaccine. Frieden also may play a role in health care reform. The selection reunites Frieden with an agency where he worked as an infectious-disease detective at the beginning of his career. . . .

In a 2004 editorial in the American Journal of Public Health, he chided most public health agencies for being "asleep at the switch" on chronic disease. "Local health departments generally do a good job of monitoring and controlling conditions that killed people in the United States 100 years ago," while doing little about modern-day threats like diabetes, he wrote.

It is unclear how Frieden's approach will play in the rest of America. His support of needle exchange programs and condom distribution to help prevent the spread of AIDS (he distributed tens of millions of free condoms, proudly stamped with the city's NYC logo and the slogan "Get Some!") may not sit well with conservatives.  Civil libertarians have chafed at his attempts to force changes in our diets, including, most recently, a push to get restaurants to use less salt. New York magazine's Web site greeted the news of Frieden's appointment with the headline, "Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden to Take Fun-Hating National." . . . .

He will begin at the CDC in June. His appointment does not require Senate confirmation.

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