U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the principal agency in this country devoted to protecting the health of Americans and to providing essential human services, especially for those who have difficulty helping themselves.

Milestones in the evolution of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services date to the earliest years of this country's history. In 1798, the first Marine Hospital, a forerunner of today's Public Health Service, was established to care for seafarers. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln established the Department of Agriculture, which became a forerunner to the Food and Drug Administration. In 1887, the federal government opened a small laboratory in NewYork for research on disease that eventually grew into the National Institutes of Health. In 1906, Congress passed the first Food and Drug Act, authorizing the government to monitor the purity of foods and the safety of medicines,now a responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration. In 1912, PresidentTheodore Roosevelt urged the creation of a Children's Bureau to combat the exploitation of children. And in 1935, Congress passed the Social Security Act.

In 1999, the Department administered more than 300 programs that served the following areas: medical and social science research; infectious disease prevention; food and drug safety; Medicare and Medicaid; financial assistance forlow-income families; child support enforcement; maternal and infant health; the Head Start program; child abuse and domestic violence; substance abuse treatment and prevention; services for older Americans; and health services forNative Americans.

Health and Human Services provides more grants each year than any other federal agency, providing some 60,000 grants annually. The Medicare program is thenation's largest health insurer, handling more than 900 million claims eachyear.

The Department of Health and Human Services works closely with state and local governments, and many HHS-funded services are administered at the local level by state or county agencies, or through private sector grants. In fiscal year 1999, the Health and Human Services budget stood at $387 billion, at which time there were 59,800 Health and Human Services employees.

Operating divisions of the Department of Health and Human Services include: the National Institutes of Health (supporting research projects nationwide indiseases like cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, arthritis, heart ailments, and AIDS); the Food and Drug Administration (overseeing the safety of foods and cosmetics, and the safety and efficacy of pharmaceuticals, biological products and medical devices); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(providing a system of health surveillance to monitor and prevent outbreak ofdiseases); the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (preventingexposure to hazardous substances from waste sites); the Indian Health Service(handling Native American health services); the Health Resources and Services Administration (providing health resources for medically underserved populations); the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (overseeing substance abuse prevention, addiction treatment, and mental health services); the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (supporting research onhealth care systems, health care quality and cost issues, and effectiveness of medical treatments); the Health Care Financing Administration (administering the Medicare and Medicaid programs); the Administration for Children and Families (providing services and assistance to needy children and families); and the Administration on Aging (supporting a nationwide aging network and providing services so that the elderly can continue to live independently.

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