What’s happening with the Australian CDC?

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly will lead the interim Australia Centre for Disease Control.

The Albanese government pledged to establish an Australian Centre for Disease Control (amazingly, shortened to ACDC) at the last election, to establish something that will be able to coordinate and prepare for future pandemics and other health emergencies.

At the last budget, the ‘Interim’ ACDC was given $91 million in funding over two years, but groups like the Public Health Association of Australia has said that this was not enough.

The interim ACDC is going to be located in the Department of Health and Aged Care. The department told Cosmos it will be operational from January 2024. 

“Work is underway to analyse functions that are potentially in scope for the Australian CDC, supported by consultation feedback,” a departmental spokesperson said.

“The initial focus will be delivering on the election commitment, focused on pandemic preparedness and preventing communicable diseases. The Australian CDC will also provide national leadership in preventive health across both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Work in preventive health will build up over time.”

The response also suggested that they hope to take a phased approach for more areas expanding after legislation is passed.

They also suggested a stand-alone CDC might be established by late 2024 or early 2025 if governments provide approval. No announcement about a location has been made.

After the budget announcement, Health Minister Mark Butler suggested that this was not just a federal effort.

“If this thing is going to work, we need the wholehearted buy-in of all states and territories to do this,” said Mr Butler at the time, in a post-budget briefing.

“There are quite substantial funds allocated to the first stage of building a CDC. That will be an interim CDC housed within the Department of Health.

“That is not the long-term option, in terms of what sort of statutory authority or other model might be agreed upon by all governments … [that] hasn’t yet been decided.”

In the Opening Plenary session of the Communicable Diseases & Immunisation Conference 2023 last month, Kelly told audiences that the CDC will not be established as a research organisation and will not duplicate existing work done by other organisations.

“It will be a nationally coordinated body, led by dedicated experts and driven by science and data that will strengthen Australia’s emergency response and ability to protect and promote the health and wellbeing of all Australians,” he said.

“The ACDC will build on existing capability within the Department of Health and Aged Care, using an all-hazards approach, fill critical gaps in Australia’s public health system by driving national data and linkages, leading the nation on One Health approaches to human health, and enhancing public health equity for all people in Australia”.

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