The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released the final report on the Winnable Battles program, an effort to make the biggest health impact for the most Americans in the shortest time.

Seven threats to public health

Winnable Battles took on seven threats to U.S. public health where concerted effort with partners could make an immediate impact: Tobacco; Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity; Food Safety; Healthcare-Associated Infections; Motor Vehicle Safety; Teen Pregnancy; and HIV. By recognizing priority strategies, defining clear targets, and working closely with public health partners, CDC made progress lightening the health burden from the targeted diseases and conditions.

"The Winnable Battles approach is all about accountability, setting ambitious goals, working with a broad group of partners, and holding ourselves to the high standard of rapid health improvement. The past six years show that with focus and commitment, we can win battles against the most important health problems Americans face every day,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Although there is much more to be done, because of the great work of CDC doctors, scientists, and public health specialists, and our partners at the federal, state and local levels, in hospitals and health care systems, and in the community, Americans are living longer, healthier lives and avoiding expensive and painful diseases."

The project was launched in 2010, when progress on some public health problems, like smoking, had shown signs of stalling. Other health challenges, like teen pregnancy, were already improving. CDC, by adopting a new approach with Winnable Battles, could work with partners to jump start stalled challenges or accelerate issues that were improving.

Results varied

Achievements in some of the Winnable Battles met or exceeded the goals set in 2010. Progress in other areas was moderate and some saw little or no progress. Some of the final results will not be known for several more years, when final data are available.

There were meaningful reductions seen in tobacco-related harms. Smoking has been the leading cause of preventable death since 2010. Adult cigarette smoking decreased 27 percent and youth cigarette smoking decreased 45 percent from 2009 to 2015. Approximately 15 percent of adults and less than 11 percent of youth currently smoke – 10 million fewer Americans than in 2009.

CDC and partners realized success in reducing the number of births to teen mothers. Teen birth rates are at historic lows, down 46 percent since 2007.

Obesity, foodborne illness goals not met

Results of other battles varied. Although final data are not yet available, CDC expects to meet three of the four goals set to reduce certain types of healthcare-associated infections, and to meet the goal to increase the percent of people who know their HIV status. Less progress was seen in efforts to meet targeted goals in the areas of obesity, foodborne illness, and reducing the number of HIV diagnoses. A full Winnable Battle report card can be found here.

In addition to meeting goals to improve health, the Winnable Battles process also changed the way the agency works to address health challenges. The Winnable Battles framework ensured a focused path forward on target areas even as CDC rose to the challenge of several global health crises, including the H1N1 flu pandemic, Ebola, and Zika. In addition, state and local public health professionals, policy makers, and healthcare professionals have adopted the Winnable Battles process in programs designed to improve health outcomes.

To see the full report, please visit