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Top CDC officials have been quick to say they have no intention of walking away from other public health missions. They couldn't even if they wanted to, because much of the agency's funding is directed to certain causes by Congress. According to one estimate, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of CDC's $6.6 billion budget is discretionary money that can be channeled into the winnable battles campaign. Indeed, the agency has been asking for more flexibility.
But there's power in perception, especially concerning CDC's grant money to states. Nearly a quarter of that is targeted at the six battle areas, which already were major areas of interest. State health officers say they're acutely aware of Frieden's priorities and want him to know it when they apply for CDC money.
"We're in the position of focusing pretty much on what we can get federal funds for," said Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Humble and several other public health leaders applaud Frieden's priorities as an overdue attempt to narrow the public health message and better market health improvement to Americans.
"You can't market if your message is too diffuse," Humble said. "If we're all on the same page and working in the same direction, we can get a lot more momentum."
This isn't how many public health officials traditionally operate, partly because they tend to worry about alienating employees, legislators and advocates, observed Stanton Glantz, a University of California-San Francisco expert on the health effects of smoking.
Other top federal health officials have not been as specific. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, the government's chief health educator, has made the broader themes of prevention and wellness her focus.
But Frieden clearly has the blessing of his Obama administration bosses to set clear targets.
"Getting focused, and getting some quick wins under your belt, is terribly important," said Victor Strecher, a University of Michigan health behavior expert.
Progress in these areas has long been measured by health statistics. What exactly will constitute a win? Frieden hasn't said yet.
CDC Web page describing winnable battles:
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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