To achieve the healthiest nation in one generation, we need to bring the health-promoting strategies that we know work directly to the people.

That was the message from Anne Schuchat, now acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during an APHA TV interview at APHA’s 2016 Annual Meeting and Expo in Denver. In fact, Schuchat said it’s time to be even more proactive in engaging populations in creating and implementing solutions to our big health problems.

“We have to get those effective prevention tools out into every neighborhood, every community,” she said.

Last year’s Zika virus outbreak also came up during the interview, as Schuchat has had central roles in many of CDC’s emergency responses — for instance, she served as chief health officer for the agency’s H1N1 pandemic flu response in 2009 and led CDC’s SARS response in Beijing in 2003. On Zika, she said the outbreak of a mosquito-borne disease that causes devastating birth defects was something “no one could have predicted.”

She also said the nation must be ready to effectively confront new health threats, as emerging diseases are now the new normal. Schuchat noted that CDC’s Emergency Operations Center has been activated 91 percent of the time in the last seven years.

Commenting on APHA’s Get Ready campaign, she said that “everybody has a part to play” in emergency preparedness, such as families creating their own plans for what to do if disaster strikes. But public health, she said, has a “special responsibility” to remain prepared, keep practicing and reach out to other first responders.

The last topic of discussion turned to the nation’s opioid abuse and overdose epidemic, which took the lives of 33,000 Americans in 2015 alone. Noting that it’s one of the few health problems getting worse instead of better, Schuchat said physicians and other health providers need to think twice before prescribing opioids — and if they do prescribe such drugs, start low and go slow. She told APHA TV that in confronting the opioid crisis, it’s “so important we give it everything.”

View the entire conversation with Schuchat at APHA TV.