CDC Commentary: Healthcare-Associated Infections -- A Continuing Threat to Public Health

Denise Cardo, MD


March 11, 2010

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Hello, I'm Dr. Denise Cardo, Director of the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a physician myself, I know we all entered medical school with one idea in mind -- to save lives.

Having a patient get a healthcare-associated infection in the course of their treatment is devastating and can have tragic outcomes. Fortunately, we know how to prevent these infections. We also know that clinicians, like you, play a critical role in their prevention.

Building on research from experts in the field, CDC and professional organizations have developed evidence-based guidelines for prevention of healthcare associated infections. These guidelines can be translated into practices and are the basis for the checklists and other tools to help you prevent these infections in your patients.

We now have the scientific proof that full adherence to these evidence-based recommendations is associated with major decreases in infections. For example, many hospitals are achieving at least 70% reductions in rates of bloodstream infections in intensive care units. [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8]

An effective prevention program requires several key factors: aggressive goals, participation by everyone, strong partnership between infection prevention experts and clinicians, and especially leadership support.

Despite all the successes, healthcare-associated infections remain a problem and they are threat to public health, requiring many people and organizations working together towards their elimination.

Healthcare is dynamic -- there are always new procedures and technology and pathogens that continue to evolve and find ways around current treatments.

Strategies to address these challenges and the identification of additional effective prevention are critical to improving patient safety and eliminating infections.

In celebration of this effort, we are proud that Atlanta will be the host city for the Fifth Decennial International Conference on Healthcare-Associated Infections.

The conference is organized by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and CDC, with the theme of moving toward elimination of healthcare-associated infections.

This event will bring together the global scientific community to set the research agenda for prevention of healthcare associated infections for the next decade.

There will be nearly 900 abstracts presented, much focusing on the work that clinicians like you have accomplished in their own healthcare institutions, in partnership with healthcare epidemiologists, those working on infection prevention, and facility leadership.

The Decennial will showcase the success achieved when people and organizations work together in a comprehensive effort to attack these largely preventable infections. We know that so much of this success would not be possible without clinician leadership in embracing infection prevention. The prevention and ultimate elimination of healthcare associated infections is a top priority for CDC and our professional partners.

In an effort to provide healthcare professionals with the tools needed to prevent healthcare associated infections within your facility, we will be working with Medscape to provide a series of videos on this topic. Each month, we will have a different topic on infection prevention that will highlight best practices, prevention research, and strategies for culture change. Infection prevention is a responsibility of all of us in healthcare.

Together we can prevent infections and save more lives, faster. Thank you.

Web Resources

Fifth Decennial International conference on Healthcare-Associated Infections 2010

Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC)

CDC: Infection Control in Healthcare Settings

Denise Cardo, MD, is Director, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion (DHQP), National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Cardo joined CDC in 1993 as a medical epidemiologist in the HIV Infections Branch, Hospital Infections Program, and in 1998 she became chief of this branch. In 2000, she became the chief of the Prevention and Evaluation Branch in the same division.

Prior to joining CDC, she had a distinguished career in the division of infectious diseases at one of Brazil′s prestigious medical institutions, Escola Paulista de Medicina, Sao Paulo, Brazil, where she received her medical degree in 1980, completed her residency and fellowship, and joined the faculty as associated professor of infectious diseases. In addition, she was a co-founder and president of Sao Paulo Association of Infection Control and a consultant to the Brazilian Ministry of Health. During 1990-1991, she did a sabbatical at the Hospital Epidemiology Program, University of Tennessee, Memphis, under the supervision of Dr. Glen Mayhall.

Her interests include patient safety, prevention of healthcare-associated infections, and antimicrobial resistance. She is the author of several research and reviewed papers including book chapters.


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