CDC's Pinched Budget Focuses on Chronic Disease Prevention

The purse strings are getting tighter at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has already seen budget drops in recent years. The agency's discretionary budget request in 2012 will dip to $5.89 billion, down from $6.47 billion in 2010. Like other agencies, CDC plans to shave costs by trying to avoid duplications and operating more efficiently. For example, several centers for different chronic diseases will be pulled under a shared umbrella called the Comprehensive Chronic Disease Prevention Program. At a press conference this afternoon, CDC director Thomas Frieden said the agency would also save $100 million in administrative expenditures, in part by reducing travel and encouraging more videoconferencing.

But CDC aims to offset some of the loss with increased support from a trust fund called the Prevention Fund set up by the recently passed health care bill (now a subject of fierce litigation). That fund could provide CDC with $753 million, some of which would go to research and other discretionary activities. The fund is "not a one-for-one replacement" of what CDC is losing, said Frieden, but it should certainly help. CDC aims to spend more money on polio eradication, which has been tantalizingly close for some time, as well as prevention and control of infectious disease, HIV/AIDS, and chronic diseases.

Much of the Prevention Fund cash will go to state and local governments, Frieden said, and he agreed that CDC's budget this year, like that of many other agencies, "is complex," with both meaningful increases and decreases.