University of Sourthern California


5 Top Public Health Concerns of 2016

What situations, epidemics and developments are public health experts most concerned about in the coming year?

#1 Antibiotic Resistance

With record numbers of superbugs cropping up due to previously widespread antibiotic over-usage, it has become top priority to rapidly identify and stop outbreaks of drug-resistant organisms and improve the “rational use” of antibiotics among humans and animals. In 2015, the CDC published the National Action Plan to Combat Antibiotic Resistance, and also created guidelines for state and local health departments to alert organizations to healthcare provider reports of resistant bacteria. This year, the CDC plans to release the AR Patient Safety Atlas, a portal granting open access to resistance data.

#2 Anti-Vaccine Outbreaks

Due to both misinformation and legitimate concerns surrounding vaccine safety, the last decade has seen a swell of parents refusing to vaccinate their children. Unfortunately, as predicted, this has lead to a resurgence of contagious disease outbreaks such as measles and whooping cough, including fatalities. Origins of the outbreaks often occur in affluent areas of the U.S., places where some of the residents may feel they are somewhat untouchable. The Director of the Center for Disease Control, Tom Frieden, calls it the “single most important infectious disease threat of our time.”

#3 Climate Change

Warming weather patterns have led to longer and more frequent bloom seasons and less seasonal viral and bacteria die-off, not only creating havoc with allergy sufferers and a faster spread of food and waterborne diseases, but increasing air pollution and extremes in weather leading to greater states of emergency. CDC scientists have previously warned the nation of the increased threat of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya - and now of Zika—all of which have now been observed in areas they never were before.

#4 Global Epidemics

Whether Zika, Ebola, or Polio, epidemics are springing up all across the globe and are proving harder to contain and eradicate. This is likely due to not only climate change and vaccine rejection, but also increased travel. CDC Director Tom Frieden reports in his 2016 State of Public Health address that we need to completely extinguish Ebola in West Africa, eradicate Polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and accelerate the work of strengthening public health infrastructure in every country so that the world will be better protected from the next threat.”

#5 Mental Health

Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia, substance abuse, and other mental health challenges have a global reach, and are more apparent than ever before. In addition to a decreasing stigmatization and greater efforts towards identification of mental illnesses, this may be partially linked to what health experts are now calling the “opiode epidemic” of painkiller and heroin addictions. Yet, new legislation surrounding the availability of opiode medicines is concerning, especially since the stated goal is to limit supply and raise prices to make them less available. As runaway drug prices are already a rising problem, what does this mean for the legitimate patient in chronic pain?