Nearly 350 Public Health Organizations Implore HHS Secretary Azar to Support CDC’s Critical Role in the COVID-19 Pandemic Response


Letter calls on Secretary Azar to “speak up” and be an advocate for CDC and public health

(Washington, DC – July 7, 2020) – The expertise of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and all public health agencies is critical to protecting Americans’ health during the COVID-19 crisis, said a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar from 347 health and public health organizations released today.

The authoring organizations, including the American Public Health Association, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Big Cities Health Coalition, National Association of County and City Health Officials and Trust for America’s Health,  expressed “deep concern” about increasing reports of resistance to evidence-based public health messages and threats to public health leaders and agencies, and called on the Secretary to be an advocate for public health.

At this sentinel moment, during the worst public health emergency in over a century, all of the nation’s leaders must resist any efforts that would undermine the critical role of the CDC to respond to the pandemic and must be an advocate for increased investment in public health, said the letter signatories.

“Secretary Azar, we urge you to speak up and amplify the critical role of CDC and that of all public health agencies during this monumental crisis,” the letter said.

The public health community’s work to respond to the pandemic, via the federal government, including within the CDC, and at the state, local, territorial and tribal levels, has been tireless but has been hamstrung by shrunken programs and inadequate technology; the result of decades of underfunding.

Public health leaders are calling attention to the need for CDC to play a central role as the nation’s navigates the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

“CDC is the world’s premier public health institution and should be treated as such during this pandemic. It must be appropriately funded and allowed to speak based on the best available science and with an unfettered voice,” said John Auerbach, President and CEO of Trust for America’s Health.

“When you look at the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries that listen to and prioritize public health fare best,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the CDC, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies. “Trying to fight this pandemic without daily, public guidance from the CDC is like fighting with one hand tied behind your back.”

“There’s no federal agency better suited to lead the response to this unprecedented pandemic. CDC has experts who have studied and helped control coronaviruses and other viral threats for decades, and can help our country emerge from this crisis,” said Dr. Julie Gerberding, former director of the CDC, Co-Chair CSIS Commission on Strengthening America’s Health Security.

The COVID-19 crisis has also illuminated the ways in which racial inequities impact health. Higher rates of COVID-19 deaths within communities of color illustrate the importance of all of CDC’s work, including its focus on chronic disease prevention. It is not possible to effectively meet the needs of the American people if that scope is narrowed.

The letter furthermore calls on Secretary Azar to be an advocate for increased funding for CDC’s core budget. While emergency supplemental funding has been critical to begin to address the immediate COVID-19 response needs, robust, sustained, and predictable funding for its full public health mission is essential to sustain its public health activities and to prevent the next emergency.  Increasing the federal investment in public health will be particularly important, as state and local government budgets are likely to be severely hampered in the coming fiscal year due to tax revenue losses during the COVID-19 related economic shutdown.

Today’s laser focus should be on preventing further deaths and disruptions due to the pandemic and the CDC, as the world’s premier public health institution, should be at the helm of that effort, the letter said. Once the pandemic is controlled, the CDC, other federal agencies, state and local leaders and the public health community should collaboratively evaluate their performance and must acknowledge and address shortcomings of the response in order to be better prepared for the next public health emergency.

Signing the letter were:

1,000 Days

Academic Health Resource

Academy for Eating Disorders

Action on Smoking and Health

Advocates for Better Children’s Diets

AES Consulting


AIDS Alliance for Women, Infants, Children, Youth & Families

AIDS United


Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance of WI

Alzheimer’s Association

Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM)

Alzheimer’s of Central Alabama

Alzheimer’s Orange County

American Academy of Family Physicians

American Academy of Pediatrics

American Academy of Pediatrics, California

American Association for Clinical Chemistry

American Association for Dental Research

American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases

American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy

American Association on Health and Disability

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN)

American College Health Association

American College of Clinical Pharmacy

American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP)

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

American College of Physicians

American College of Preventive Medicine

American Council on Exercise

American Dental Association

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

American Geriatrics Society

American Heart Association

American Kidney Fund

American Lung Association

American Medical Women’s Association

American Organization for Nursing Leadership

American Public Health Association

American School Health Association

American Sexual Health Association

American Society for Clinical Pathology

American Society for Microbiology

American Society of Hematology

American Society of Pediatric Nephrology

American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene

American Thoracic Society

American University Department of Health Studies

APLA Health

Arizona Community Health Workers Association

Arizona Public Health Association

Art & Science of Health Promotion Institute

Asian Health Coalition

Asian Health Services

Association for Prevention Teaching and Research

Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology

Association of American Cancer Institutes

Association of American Medical Colleges

Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO)

Association of Departments of Family Medicine

Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors

Association of Food and Drug Officials

Association of Immunization Managers

Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs

Association of Minority Health Professions Schools

Association of Ohio Health Commissioners

Association of Population Centers

Association of Public Health Laboratories

Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health

Association of SNAP Nutrition Education Administrators

Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

Association of State Public Health Nutritionists

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Big Cities Health Coalition

Bipartisan Policy Center

Black AIDS Institute

Black Men’s Health Initiative

Boston Public Health Commission

Bristol Health Equity Zone

Bronx Health REACH

California Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health

California Immunization Coalition

California Pan-Ethnic Health Network

California School Nurses Organization

Cambridge Public Health Department

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Cancer Council of the Pacific Islands

Caring Ambassadors Program

Cascade AIDS Project

Center for Community Resilience

Center for Health and Learning

Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)

CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers

Ceres Community Project

ChangeLab Solutions

Child Welfare League of America

Children’s Environmental Health Network

Children’s Mental Health Network

Christian Council of Delmarva

City of Houston Health Department

City of Milwaukee of Health Department

Climate for Health, ecoAmerica

Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas

Coalition of National Health Education Organizations

Cohen Veterans Bioscience

Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials

Colorado Public Health Association

Colorado Public Health Nursing Leaders

Community Access National Network

Community Education Group

Connecticut Public Health Association

Cooley’s Anemia Foundation

Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists

Counter Tools

County Health Executives Association of California

Cuyahoga County Board of Health

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Delaware Academy of Medicine

Delaware Academy of Medicine / Delaware Public Health Association

Delaware Academy of Medicine and the Delaware Public Health Association

East Shore District Health Dept.

Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action

Education Development Center

Element Health, Inc.

Endocrine Society

Enlace Chicago

Epilepsy Alliance America

Epilepsy Foundation

Equality California

Eta Sigma Gamma

Families USA

Family Voices

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Information Network

FHI 360

FIRST Family Service Center

Fletcher Group, Inc.

Florida Institute for Health Innovation

Florida Public Health Association

Foundation for Healthy Generations

Galaxy Aviation Corp

Gateway Region YMCA

George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication

GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality

Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice

Global Health Council

Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC)

Global Healthy Living Foundation

Global Liver Institute

Grand Traverse County Health Department

Green & Healthy Homes Initiative

Harm Reduction Michigan

Hawaii Public Health Association

Hawaii State Dept of Health, Office of Primary Care and Rural Health

Health by Design

Health Care Improvement Foundation

Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO)

Health Resources in Action

Healthcare Foundation Northern Sonoma County

Healthcare Ready


HealthPartners Institute

Healthy Schools Campaign

Healthy Weight Partnership Inc.

Heartland Alliance

Hep B United

Hepatitis B Foundation

HIV Medicine Association

Hogg Foundation for Mental Health

Hope and Help Center of Central Florida, Inc.

Idaho Public Health Association

Immunization Action Coalition

Immunize Nevada

Impetus – Let’s Get Started LLC

Indiana Public Health Association

Infectious Diseases Society of America

Institute for Family Health

Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science (IAPHS)

International Association of Emergency Managers

International Association of Fire Chiefs

IWC Resources, LP

Jeffrey Modell Foundation

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice

Jump IN for Healthy Kids

Kaplan Health Innovations

Kentucky Health Departments Association

L.A. Care Health Plan

Lakeshore Foundation

League of American Bicyclists

Linn County Public Health

Louisiana Community Health Worker Outreach Network

Louisiana Public Health Association

Lupus and Allied Diseases Association, Inc.

Macoupin County Public Health Department

Maine Public Health Association

March of Dimes

MaryCatherine Jones Consulting, LLC

Maryland Association of County Health Officers (MACHO)

Maryland Office of Minority Health

Massachusetts Public Health Association


MEND Foundation

Metropolitan Group

Michigan Association for Local Public Health

MindWise Innovations

Minneapolis Health Department

Mississippi Public Health Institute

Montana Public Health Association

Monterey County Health Department

Morehouse School of Medicine


Multnomah County Health Department




National Adult Day Services Association

National Association of Chronic Disease Directors

National Association of Community Health Workers

National Association of County and City Health Officials

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

National Association of School Nurses

National Athletic Trainers’ Association

National Birth Equity Collaborative

National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University

National Center for Healthy Housing

National Coalition for LGBT Health

National Coalition for the Homeless

National Coalition of STD Directors

National Environmental Health Association (NEHA)

National Forum for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention

National Hemophilia Foundation

National Kidney Foundation

National Lipid Association

National Medical Association (NMA)

National Network of Public Health Institutes

National Nurse-Led Care Consortium

National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives

National REACH Coalition

National Safety Council

National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable

National WIC Association

Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors

Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility of United Church of Christ

Nevada Public Health Organization

Nevada Rural Hospital Partners

New Jersey Association of County and City Health Officials

New Jersey Public Health Association

New York State Public Health Association

North American Primary Care Research Group

North Carolina Healthcare Foundation

Northwest Center for Public Health Practice

NYU Grossman School of Medicine

NYU School of Global Public Health

Ohio Public Health Association

Onyx Strategic Consulting LLC

Pacific Island Health Officers Association

Partnering for Community Transformation Inc

Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease

Partnership to Fight Infectious Disease


Patrick Risha CTE Awareness Foundation

Pawtucket Central Falls Health Equity Zone

Peggy Lillis Foundation

Pennsylvania Public Health Association

PFLAG National

Population Association of America

Population Health Alliance

Prevent Blindness

Prevent Child Abuse America

Prevention Institute

Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association

Public Health Advocates

Public Health Alliance of Southern California

Public Health Foundation

Public Health Institute

Public Health Law Center

Public Health Solutions

Puerto Rico Public Health Association

Pulmonary Hypertension Association

Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness GWU


Residential Eating Disorders Consortium


Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies

Respiratory Health Association

Rhode Island Department of Health

RiverStone Health

Rural Health Association of Tennessee

Rural Health Association of Utah

Safe Routes Partnership

Safe States Alliance

Samueli Integrative Health Programs


School-Based Health Alliance

SF Hep B Free – Bay Area

SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators

Shoals Community Clinic

Silver State Equality-Nevada

Smoke Free St. Joe

Society for Advancement of Violence and Injury Research

Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Society for Public Health Education

Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education

Society of Teachers of Family Medicine

Southern California Public Health Association

Southwick BOH

Stanislaus County Medical Society

Susan G. Komen

Tennessee Justice Center

Tennessee Public Health Association

Texas Public Health Association

The AIDS Institute

The Broussard Company

The Center for Community Resilience, George Washington University

The Consortium

The Foundation for Sustainable Communities

The George Washington University (GW) Cancer Center

The Gerontological Society of America

The Immunization Partnership

The John A. Hartford Foundation

The Kennedy Forum

The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health

The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc

The Nourished Principles, LLC

The Permanente Medical Group

Thomas Jefferson University

Training Resources Network, Inc.

Treatment Action Group

Trillium Health

Trust for America’s Health

Truth Initiative

U.S. Breastfeeding Committee

UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

United Ostomy Associations of America

United Way of Greenwood and Abbeville Counties

University of Washington Department of Global Health

University of Washington School of Nursing

University of Washington School of Public Health

University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute


Vaccinate Your Family

Washington State Association of Local Health Officials

Washington State Department of Health

Washington State Public Health Association

WelCore Health, LLC

West Valley Neighborhoods Coalition


Winer Family Foundation

Wisconsin Public Health Association

Women Of A Certain Age

WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease

Women’s Resource Center

Woodhull Freedom Foundation

Xavier University for Population Health

YMCA of the USA

Zell Community Health Strategies