Health and Human Services Department, United States
The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for overseeing government departments and programs devoted to public health. The HHS manages federal health insurance programs Medicare and Medicaid for certain citizens. Other operational departments within the HHS have a direct impact on general matters of national security, public safety, and counter-terrorism.
The HHS currently oversees over 300 various programs and has an annual operating budget of around 460 billion dollars. The department was founded in the 1930s as part of the New Deal, but has since grown in scope to cover everything from preschool programs to medical research.
Two main branches of the HHS are especially important to the preservation of national security. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for pharmaceutical research and the approval of medicines for sale and distribution in the United States. The FDA also regulates some aspects of agriculture and insures the safety of food products for consumers. Working with the Environmental Protection Agency, the FDA helped to establish guidelines for drinking water treatment and regulation. Food safety, water purity, and drug research and approval have increased in importance in recent years since America has come under terrorist threat. The FDA sponsors research into protecting food and water systems from bioterrorism attacks. Other research funding supports the development and testing of vaccines and drugs to fight diseases that are most likely to be used in such an attack.
Perhaps the most important organizational branch of the HHS in terms of national security, as well as public health, is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is the primary disease research facility in the world and monitors the spread of epidemic diseases whether natural or the result of bioterrorism. The CDC has introduced several new initiatives to investigate, plan for, and combat bioterrorism and radiological attacks. Constant research on disease virulence, transmission, and treatments insures that most diseases are readily identifiable. Several instances in the past, including the September 11th terrorist attacks on the Unites States, have prompted the CDC to issue advisories to doctors on symptoms of diseases that can be the result of bioterrorism. The CDC stressed that some of these diseases could be difficult to diagnose because they had been eradicated from the United States for decades. Also, the organization released information to the general public regarding the best ways to prepare for and survive a biological or radiological attack.
The HHS, with the aid of the CDC, also administers general and emergency vaccination and inoculation programs, including advising the military on possible health threats that could be encountered abroad. Individual state bioterrorism readiness plans must also be approved by the HHS.
█ FURTHER READING:
Centers for Disease Control "Bioterrorism Preparedness." < http://www.bt.cdc.gov/ > (November 28, 2002).