CDC Announces New Disease Forecasting Center

The new center will meet a longstanding need for a national focal point to analyze data and forecast the trajectory of pandemics with the express goal of informing and improving decisions with the best available evidence. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

NNPA Newswire

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday, August 18, announced a new center designed to advance the use of forecasting and outbreak analytics in public health decision-making.

In a news release, officials said the Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics will bring together next-generation public health data, expert disease modelers, public health emergency responders, and high-quality communications, to meet the needs of decision-makers.

The center launches with a goal of predicting disease threats, provide early warning and real-time data on outbreaks.

Health officials said it would accelerate access to and use of data for public health decision-makers who need information to mitigate the effects of disease threats, such as social and economic disruption.

The center will prioritize equity and accessibility, while serving as a hub for innovation and research on disease modeling.

“This is an amazing opportunity for CDC and public health as we stand up the country’s first government-wide public health forecasting center,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky.

“We are excited to have the expertise and ability to model and forecast public health concerns and share information in real-time to activate governmental, private sector, and public actions in anticipation of threats both domestically and abroad.”

The center, with initial funding from the American Rescue Plan, will focus on three key functions:

  • Predict: Undertake modeling and forecasting; enhance the ability to determine the foundational data sources needed; support research and innovation in outbreak analytics and science for real-time action; and establish appropriate forecasting horizons.
  • Connect: Expand broad capability for data sharing and integration; maximize interoperability with data standards and utilize open-source software and application programming interface capabilities, with existing and new data streams from the public health ecosystem and beyond.
  • Inform: Translate and communicate forecasts; connect with key decision-makers across sectors including government, businesses, and non-profits, along with individuals with strong intergovernmental affairs and communication capacity for action.

The new leadership team charged with the development and implementation of a plan to establish the center, includes:

  • Dr. Marc Lipsitch, who will serve as Director for Science
  • Dr. Dylan George, who will serve as Director for Operations
  • Dr. Caitlin Rivers, who will serve as Associate Director
  • Dr. Rebecca Kahn, who will serve as Senior Scientist

“I am thrilled to be joining an exceptional team at CDC to build new capabilities for the fight against pandemics,” Dr. George exclaimed in the news release.

“Pandemics threaten our families and communities at speed and scale – our response needs to move at speed and scale, too.”

Dr. George continued:

“The Center will provide critical information to communities so we can respond efficiently and effectively.  The U.S. desperately needs this capability, and I am grateful for the opportunity to help build it.”

The new center will meet a longstanding need for a national focal point to analyze data and forecast the trajectory of pandemics with the express goal of informing and improving decisions with the best available evidence, added Dr. Lipsitch.

“I am thrilled to be working with a great team at CDC to set it up, and excited to integrate the best and most innovative ideas from academia, the private sector, and government to make this a reality that will truly improve our response to future pandemics, and indeed to other infectious diseases,” Dr. Lipsitch remarked.

Officials concluded that, in establishing the center, the CDC “is addressing a critical need to improve the U.S. government’s ability to forecast and model emerging health threats, while building on existing modeling activities, expanding collaboration through interoperability, accessibility and increased emphasis on policy-maker decision support and communication to the public.”

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