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United States Department of Health and Human Services
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HHS: What We Do

THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES is the United States government's principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.

THE DEPARTMENT INCLUDES MORE THAN 300 PROGRAMS, covering a wide spectrum of activities. Some highlights include:

  • Medical and social science research
  • Preventing outbreak of infectious disease, including immunization services
  • Assuring food and drug safety
  • Medicare (health insurance for elderly and disabled Americans) and Medicaid (health insurance for low-income people)
  • Financial assistance and services for low-income families
  • Improving maternal and infant health
  • Head Start (pre-school education and services)
  • Preventing child abuse and domestic violence
  • Substance abuse treatment and prevention
  • Services for older Americans, including home-delivered meals
  • Comprehensive health services for Native Americans

HHS IS THE LARGEST GRANT-MAKING AGENCY in the federal government, providing some 60,000 grants per year. HHS' Medicare program is the nation's largest health insurer, handling more than 900 million claims per year.

HHS WORKS CLOSELY WITH STATE, LOCAL AND TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS, and many HHS-funded services are provided at the local level by state, county or tribal agencies, or through private sector grantees. The Department's programs are administered by 11 HHS operating divisions, including eight agencies in the U.S. Public Health Service and three human services agencies. In addition to the services they deliver, the HHS programs provide for equitable treatment of beneficiaries nationwide, and they enable the collection of national health and other data.

  • HHS Budget, FY 2003 -- $502 billion
  • HHS employees -- 65,500

Leadership is provided by the Office of the Secretary, and administrative support is provided by the Program Support Center, a self-supporting operating division of HHS. The Department's Headquarters is in the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, D.C., 20201. HHS has a long history.

HHS Operating Divisions

Public Health Service Agencies

National Institutes of Health -- NIH is the world's premier medical research organization, supporting some 35,000 research projects nationwide in diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, arthritis, heart ailments and AIDS. Includes 18 separate health institutes, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the National Library of Medicine. Established: 1887, as the Hygienic Laboratory, Staten Island, N.Y. Headquarters: Bethesda, Md.

  • Employees -- 17,693
  • Director -- Elias Adam Zerhouni, M.D.
  • FY '03 Budget -- $27.2 billion

Food and Drug Administration -- FDA assures the safety of foods and cosmetics, and the safety and efficacy of pharmaceuticals, biological products and medical devices -- products which represent 25 cents out of every dollar in U.S. consumer spending. Established: 1906, when the Pure Food and Drug Act gave regulatory authority to the Bureau of Chemistry. Headquarters: Rockville, Md.

  • Employees -- 10,479
  • Commissioner -- Mark McClellan, M.D., Ph.D.
  • FY '03 Budget -- $1.7 billion

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- Working with states and other partners, CDC provides a system of health surveillance to monitor and prevent disease outbreaks (including bioterrorism), implement disease prevention strategies, and maintain national health statistics. Provides for immunization services, workplace safety, and environmental disease prevention. Guards against international disease transmission, with personnel stationed in more than 25 foreign countries. Established: 1946, as the Communicable Disease Center. Headquarters: Atlanta, Ga.

  • Employees -- 8,668
  • Director -- Julie Louise Gerberding M.D., M.P.H.
  • FY '03 Budget -- $6.8 billion

(The CDC director is also administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which helps prevent exposure to hazardous substances from waste sites on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List, and develops toxicological profiles of chemicals found at these sites.)

Indian Health Service -- Working with tribes, the IHS provides health services to nearly 1.5 million American Indians and Alaska Natives of 557 Federally recognized tribes. Annually there are about 69,000 hospital admissions and 7 million outpatient visits, 4 million community health representative client contacts, and 2.4 million dental services. Established: 1924 (mission transferred from the Interior Department in 1955.) Headquarters: Rockville, MD.

  • Employees: 14,961
  • Director: Charles W. Grim, D.D.S., M.H.S.A.
  • FY '03 Budget: $3.5 billion

Health Resources and Services Administration -- HRSA provides access to essential health services for people who are poor, uninsured, or who live in rural and urban neighborhoods where health care is scarce. HRSA-funded health centers provide comprehensive primary and preventive medical care to more than 9 million patients each year at more than 3000 sites nationwide. Working in partnership with many state and community organizations, HRSA also supports programs that ensure healthy mothers and children, increase the number and diversity of health care professionals in underserved communities, and provide supportive services for people fighting HIV/AIDS through the Ryan White Care Act. Established: 1982, bringing together several already-existing programs. Headquarters: Rockville, MD.

  • Employees -- 1,937
  • Administrator -- Elizabeth M. Duke, Ph.D.
  • FY '03 Budget -- $7.1 billion

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration -- SAMHSA works to improve the quality and availability of substance abuse prevention, addiction treatment and mental health services. Provides funding to the States to support and maintain substance abuse and mental health services through federal block grants. Targeted Capacity Expansion grants provide resources to address emerging drug abuse trends and mental health service needs and related public health problems, including HIV/AIDS, at the earliest possible stages. Funds hundreds of programs nationwide to increase the use and improve prevention and treatment methods shown by research to be effective through "Knowledge Development and Application" grants. Established: 1992. (predecessor agency, the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration, was established in 1974.) Headquarters: Rockville, Md.

  • Employees -- 588
  • Administrator --Charles G. Curie, M.A., ACSW
  • FY '03 Budget -- $3.2 billion

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality -- AHRQ supports research designed to improve the quality of health care, reduce its cost, improve patient safety, address medical errors, and broaden access to essential services. AHRQ provides evidence-based information on health care outcomes; quality; and cost, use, and access. Established: 1989. Headquarters: Rockville, Md.

  • Employees -- 294
  • Director -- Carolyn Clancy, M.D.
  • FY '03 Budget -- $309 million

Other HHS Agencies

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services -- CMS administers the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which provide health care to about one in every four Americans. Medicare provides health insurance for more than 41 million elderly and disabled Americans. Medicaid, a joint federal-state program, provides health coverage for more some 44 million low-income persons, including nearly 19 million children, as well as nursing home coverage for low-income elderly. The Children's Health Insurance Program covers more than 4.2 million children. Established: 1977, as the Health Care Financing Administration. Headquarters: Baltimore, Md.

  • Employees -- 4,661
  • Administrator -- Tom Scully
  • FY '03 Budget -- $413 billion

Administration for Children and Families -- ACF is responsible for some 60 programs that promote the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals and communities. Administers the state-federal welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, providing assistance to an estimated 5 million persons, including 4 million children. Administers national child support enforcement system, collecting some $20 billion in FY 2002 in payments from non-custodial parents. Administers the Head Start program, serving more than 900,000 pre-school children. Provides funds to assist low-income families in paying for child care, and supports state programs to provide for foster care and adoption assistance. Funds programs to prevent child abuse and domestic violence. Established: 1991, bringing together several already-existing programs. Headquarters: Washington, D.C.

  • Employees -- 1,512
  • Assistant Secretary for Children and Families -- Wade F. Horn, Ph.D.
  • FY '03 Budget -- $47.5 billion

Administration on Aging -- AoA supports a nationwide aging network, providing services to the elderly, especially to enable them to remain independent. Supports some 240 million meals for the elderly each year, including home-delivered "meals on wheels." Helps provide transportation and at-home services. Supports ombudsman services for elderly, and provides policy leadership on aging issues. Established: 1965. Headquarters: Washington, D.C.

  • Employees -- 124
  • Assistant Secretary for Aging -- Josefina G. Carbonell
  • FY '03 Budget -- $1.4 billion

The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is a uniformed service of more than 6,000 health professionals who serve in many HHS and other federal agencies. The Surgeon General is head of the Commissioned Corps.

Also included in the Department is the Office of Public Health and Science, the Office of the HHS Inspector General and the HHS Office for Civil Rights. In addition, the Program Support Center, a self-supporting division of the Department, provides administrative services for HHS and other federal agencies.

Departmental leadership is provided by the Office of the Secretary, including five staff divisions.

Until March 31, 1995, the Social Security Administration was part of the Department of Health and Human Services. As an independent agency, it continues to work closely with the Department's programs.

Last revised: March 17, 2004

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