U.K. Officials Release New Plan to Fight Infectious Diseases
Sir Liam Donaldson, the United Kingdom's chief medical officer, yesterday released a report calling for a new national strategy to combat infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, Reuters/Contra Costa Times reports. Donaldson said it was "rather surprising" that the National Health Service had never adopted a "formal strategy" for dealing with infectious diseases and called for the establishment of an oversight agency. "We have to have our expertise ... in one national center of excellence so we can respond with the best approach when these things happen," he added (Reuters/Contra Costa Times, 1/10). The report -- titled "Getting Ahead of the Curve: A Strategy for Combating Infectious Diseases (Including Other Aspects of Health Protection)" -- states that infectious diseases account for 41% of the "global disease burden," with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria responsible for "millions of deaths" each year. A number of factors, including increased international travel, the growth of technology, adaptation of microorganisms, changes in environment and land use and a greater proportion of people with weakened immune systems, have led to a greater health threat from infectious diseases in the United Kingdom, the report states, noting that 40% of people in England see a physician because they have some sort of infection. To combat the rise in infectious diseases, the report recommends the establishment of a new National Infection Control and Health Protection Agency. The agency, which would combine the functions of the Public Health Laboratory Service, the National Radiological Protection Board, the Center for Applied Microbiology and Research and the National Focus for Chemical Incidents, would "provide an integrated approach to protecting the health of the public against infectious diseases as well as chemical and radiological hazards." The report also suggests the establishment of a national panel of experts to "assess the threat from new and emerging diseases" and recommends that the government draw up "new action plans" for dealing with infectious disease priorities such as TB, bloodborne and sexually transmitted diseases and infections acquired in a health care setting. It also endorses a "strengthened and expanded" disease surveillance system. "Good surveillance is the cornerstone of a system to control infectious diseases in the population. Without it, tracking disease trends, identifying new infectious disease threats, designing effective vaccines, spotting serious outbreaks and monitoring control measures would all be impossible," the report states ("Getting Ahead of the Curve" executive summary, January 2002).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.