It sure is a shame that Seattle didn’t have a huge malaria problem back in the day. Not because I think we missed out on our fair share of infectious diseases, but because it turns out the reason the Center for Disease Control is outside Atlanta is that it used to be a hot spot for deadly mosquitoes:
The CDC was founded in 1942 as the Office of National Defense Malaria Control Activities….Atlanta was chosen as the location because malaria was endemic in the Southern United States…With a budget at the time of about $1 million, 59 percent of its personnel were engaged in mosquito abatement…there were only seven medical officers on duty and an early organization chart was drawn, somewhat fancifully, in the shape of a mosquito. (editor’s note: “ha!”)
Why is this quasi-humorous factoid relevant? Because it’s time that the Center for Disease Control had a west coast office, and it’s clear to me that such an office should be here.
One of the reasons Global Health Nexus was launched is our region’s world-class innovation and success in global health discovery, development, delivery, education and philanthropy. Much of this is thanks to the Gates Foundation, which also happens to be leading the charge to eradicate malaria (take that, 1940’s DeKalb County!). Yet, the Gates Foundation talks all the time about how they alone can’t solve all of the world’s problems…rather it is going to take a concerted effort between government, philanthropy and the private sector. The Obama Administration is already on board, making global health a high priority, but what better way to ensure full coordination and partnership than by making Seattle the headquarters of the CDC’s global health operations. See, I’m not even trying to steal the whole thing, just a branch.
Here’s a few arguments in favor: 1) proximity to the Gates Foundation; 2) proximity to all of the other great organizations in our region like PATH, Seattle BioMed, Fred Hutch and the UW that can leverage CDC activities; 3) proximity to Asia; 4) proximity to all the former high level CDC folks already in town, at the Gates Foundation and like current Public Health – Seattle & King County Director Dr. David Fleming (and I quote: “Dr. Fleming has also served as the Deputy Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While at CDC…[h]e provided oversight of CDC’s global health portfolio through its Office of Global Health…”). Need I go on?
A subset of us in Global Health Nexus are going to start looking at what it would take to bring this idea to fruition. We’ll let you know what we find out. One thing we won’t bring here from Atlanta is all of those infected mosquitoes. Of course, it won’t matter, since our region also happens to be one of the leaders in creating malaria-infected mosquitoes in Seattle BioMed’s insectarium, but that’s just another reason to get the CDC here!