Our Path Forward
Bringing outbreak modeling, forecasting, and advanced analytics to scale will take time, and the establishment of CFA is an important step for CDC and the nation to be better equipped to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and respond effectively to future outbreaks. We must make long-term, sustainable investments in our public health system.
CFA was created to support decision makers and provide them with critical information when they need it most. The resources appropriated by Congress for FY 2023 allow CDC to sustain our progress in meeting this critically important mandate at the operational level achieved with initial emergency supplemental funding. In FY 2023, CFA will continue responding with technical reports, risk assessments, and other products when the nation faces our next public health emergency, and CFA will continue building the organization—developing modeling capabilities and honing analytics for more robust decision support. CFA will also build on our initial funded partnerships to encourage further development of innovation, integration, implementation, and coordination of advanced analytics and epidemic forecasting in the United States, and CFA will continue promoting health equity.
CDC and CFA work to promote health equity by using data to identify and track health disparities in outbreaks and inform policies to address them. To do this, CFA works with partners to provide access to outbreak forecasting and advanced analytics resources so that decision makers at all levels representing all populations can respond.
CFA is identifying disparities and building our capacity to gather and analyze data with a focus on groups with highest risk of severe outcomes. We know there is more work to be done to improve outcomes for people who live and work in settings that put them at increased risk of becoming infected during an infectious disease outbreak. In the coming year, CFA will prioritize and build upon our equity work in actionable ways, including:
- Develop equity-informed data on transmission of various diseases—work that is critical to protecting people from disease outbreaks.
- Establish an analytic response team within the Predict Division that will focus on specific populations in high-risk settings for infectious diseases, such as prisons, shelters, nursing homes, and other congregate settings.
- Improve data collection methods, which will allow CFA to explore heterogeneity within racial groups in exposures and outcomes of infectious disease models.
- Use relevant demographic strata in models to identify inequities in projected disease impacts.
- Make it a principle, when analyses identify disparities in the impact of a disease or condition across demographic groups, to investigate the drivers of the disparity and potential solutions, rather than stopping with identification.
CFA’s next steps include expanding our work coordinating with a diverse selection of STLT partners, building on work already underway to discover what states, territories, localities, and tribes need most to build their advanced analytics and disease forecasting capabilities. With additional resources, CFA will work to develop modeling tools and other products, and eventually STLT capacity, enabling stakeholders at multiple levels to make more and better-informed decisions on preparing for and responding to the next public health emergency. CFA will accelerate work to make advanced analytics and outbreak forecasting available at the speed and scale needed to improve decision-making; doing so will be crucial for transitioning to a common public health ecosystem. CFA will also focus on work with STLT partners to improve gathering of race, ethnicity, age, geographic, and other demographic data that are critical for the scientific study of equity in exposures and improving outcomes.
Public health threats can emerge and disrupt people’s lives and the national and global economy at any given moment. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need to improve the United States’ ability to forecast disease threats and use data to mitigate their harmful effects. CFA is focused on improving this capability for CDC. We are excited to build a new and critical capability to support CDC’s and the nation’s response to emerging health threats. With our growing expertise in data science, we have an opportunity to help CDC define itself as the primary workforce for disease modeling and outbreak analytics. Doing this work will require sustained investment and effort, and it will require new ways of working, including engagements with the private sector. As CFA’s internal operations are sustained and capacity building is expanded for states and other jurisdictions, CFA will be able to focus more on closing the gap between research and development and availability of tools in use within the public health sector.