NIH (National Institutes of Health)

NIH (National Institutes of Health)


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a federal agency that serves as the fiscal agent of medical research in the United States. The mission of the NIH is to foster medical and behavioral research on living systems and to use that knowledge to prevent, identify, diagnose, and treat illness and disability.

The NIH originated in 1887 as a one-room bacteriological laboratory on Staten Island that was called The Hygienic Laboratory. The Hygienic Laboratory was established by the Marine Hospital Service (The Public Health Service) to diagnose and study bacterial epidemics. This laboratory marked the beginning of government-supported medical research in the United States. The Laboratory's name was changed to the National Institutes of Health in 1930. In 1938, the NIH moved to its present location in Bethesda, Maryland.

As the primary medical research agency in the United States, NIH conducts research in its own laboratories, allocates research funds for non-federal scientists, trains research scientists, and promotes the spread of medical information. Funds for the NIH are appropriated from Congress. In 2002, the NIH was appropriated almost $23.4 billion. Research grants for non-federal scientists account for about 84 percent of the appropriation. NIH's in-house research accounts for about 10 percent of the appropriation. The remainder of the budget goes toward research support costs.

NIH is one of the agencies of the Public Health Service, which is a component of the Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is comprised of 27 institutes and centers:

  • Center for Information Technology
  • Center for Scientific Review
  • John E. Fogarty International Center
  • National Cancer Institute
  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities
  • National Center for Research Resources
  • National Eye Institute
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
  • National Human Genome Research Institute
  • National Institute on Aging
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
  • National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
  • National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
  • National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
  • National Institute of General Medical Sciences
  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
  • National Institute of Nursing Research
  • National Library of Medicine
  • Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center

The role of NIH in a national health crisis. The NIH would play a crucial role in the event of a national health crisis. The appropriate institutes within NIH would be called upon to conduct and support research that is relevant to the crisis at hand. NIH policy and the planning and management of all NIH activities is the responsibility of the Office of the Director. The Department of Homeland Security integrates many of the government's agencies to protect the American people from potential threats.

United States President George W. Bush is committed to providing a large appropriation to NIH to support biological terrorism research. In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which are institutes within NIH, were called into action. NIAID has supported much of the research into the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of illnesses caused by microorganisms that may be used by bioterrorists. Immediately after the October 2001 bioterrorist attacks, NIAID accelerated the research of bacteria and viruses that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies as "Category A" agents. Category A agents are microorganisms that cause severe illness and high death rates and are easy to spread.

NIMH has provided information and counseling to Americans who were trying to cope with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. They support the survivors, emergency personnel, and millions of others who were directly or indirectly affected by the attacks.



Kondratas, R. Images from the History of the Public Health Service. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 1994.

Kurian, G. T., ed. A Historical Guide to the U.S. Government. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Mullan, F. Plagues and Politics: The Story of the United States Public Health Service. New York: Basic Book, Inc., 1989.

Wilcox, W. Public Health Sourcebook: Basic Information About Government Health Agencies. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1998.


National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, Maryland 20892. < > (January 1, 2003).

Office of the Public Health Service Historian, 18–23 Parklawn Building, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, Maryland, 20857. (301) 443–5363. August 21, 2000. < > (October 19, 2000).


CDC (United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Health and Human Services Department, United States
Homeland Security, United States Department of
Microbiology: Applications to Espionage, Intelligence and Security
NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health)
Public Health Service (PHS), United States
September 11 Terrorist Attacks on the United States

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