The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or CDC) is the main agency of the United States federal government for the protection of the public health and safety of U.S. citizens. It is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and has the mission "to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability" (CDC 2007a). The CDC is headquartered near Atlanta, Georgia.
The CDC has three primary functions: to protect the health and safety of the United States; to provide credible information for the general public, health care providers, and government leaders to aid in making informed health decisions; and to promote health through partnerships with state health departments and other organizations (Koplan 2002). It responsibilities include a wide range of preventable health problems, including infectious diseases and epidemics, environmental effects on health, and chronic diseases, including efforts and preventing and reducing lead poisoning, cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and AIDS (Koplan 2002). The CDC is involved in monitoring health, investigating health problems and infectious outbreaks, conducting research to enhance prevention, developing and advocating public health policies, implementing prevention strategies, promoting healthy behaviors, and fostering safer and healthier environments (CDC 2007a).
The effort of CDC to support the physical life of people intersects with the spiritual dimension of human beings as well, for dealing with disease and its prevention may require individuals to deal with stress and lifestyle issues (overcoming obesity, showing discipline in eating habits, avoiding promiscuous sex, and so forth).
The CDC was formed on July 1, 1946, as the Communicable Disease Center (CDC), headquartered in a small building in Atlanta, Georgia (CDC 2007b). It was descended from the wartime agency Malaria Control in War Areas (MCWA) in Atlanta. Dr. Joseph Mountin was instrumental in its formation (Koplan 2002).
Today, the CDC is based in unincorporated DeKalb County, Georgia adjacent to the campus of Emory University and east of the city of Atlanta. As of 2007, the staff numbers nearly 15,000 (including 6,000 contractors and 840 Commissioned Corps officers) in 170 occupations. Engineers, entomologists, epidemiologists, biologists, physicians, veterinarians, behavioral scientists, nurses, medical technologists, economists, health communicators, toxicologists, chemists, computer scientists, and statisticians—to name only a few—each are dedicated to the pursuit of public health. CDC’s budget for 2008 is $8.8 billion.
While headquartered in DeKalb County, Georgia, the CDC has ten other locations in the United States and Puerto Rico. Those locations include Anchorage, Alaska; Cincinnati, Ohio; Fort Collins, Colorado; Hyattsville, Maryland; Morgantown, West Virginia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Research Triangle Park, North Carolina; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Spokane, Washington; and Washington, D.C. In addition, CDC staff are located in state and local health agencies, quarantine/border health offices at ports of entry, and 45 countries around the world, from Angola to Zimbabwe.
The CDC campus in Atlanta houses facilities for the research of extremely dangerous biological agents.
The CDC focuses national attention on developing and applying disease prevention and control (especially infectious diseases), environmental health, occupational safety and health, health promotion, prevention and education activities designed to improve the health of the people of the United States.
The agency has defined specific health impact goals toward prioritizing and focusing its work and investments and measuring progress.
All people, and especially those at greater risk of health disparities, will achieve their optimal lifespan with the best possible quality of health in every stage of life.
Start Strong: Increase the number of infants and toddlers that have a strong start for healthy and safe lives. (Infants and Toddlers, ages zero to three years).
Grow Safe and Strong: Increase the number of children who grow up healthy, safe, and ready to learn. (Children, ages four to 11 years).
Achieve Healthy Independence: Increase the number of adolescents who are prepared to be healthy, safe, independent, and productive members of society. (Adolescents, ages 12-19 years).
Live a Healthy, Productive, and Satisfying Life: Increase the number of adults who are healthy and able to participate fully in life activities and enter their later years with optimum health. (Adults, ages 20-49 years).
Live Better, Longer: Increase the number of older adults who live longer, high-quality, productive, and independent lives. (Older Adults, ages 50 and over).
The places where people live, work, learn, and play will protect and promote their health and safety, especially those at greater risk of health disparities.
Healthy Communities: Increase the number of communities that protect, and promote health and safety and prevent illness and injury in all their members.
Healthy Homes: Protect and promote health through safe and healthy home environments.
Healthy Schools: Increase the number of schools that protect and promote the health, safety and development of all students, and protect and promote the health and safety of all staff. (e.g. – healthy food vending, physical activity programs).
Healthy Workplaces: Promote and protect the health and safety of people who work by preventing workplace-related fatalities, illnesses, injuries, and personal health risks.
Healthy Healthcare Settings: Increase the number of healthcare settings that provide safe, effective, and satisfying patient care.
Healthy Institutions: Increase the number of institutions that provide safe, healthy, and equitable environments for their residents, clients or inmates.
Healthy Travel and Recreation: Ensure that environments enhance health and prevent illness and injury during travel and recreation.
People in all communities will be protected from infectious, occupational, environmental, and terrorist threats. Preparedness goals will address scenarios that include natural and intentional threats. The first round of these scenarios will encompass influenza, anthrax, plague, emerging infections, toxic chemical exposure, and radiation exposure.
Decrease the use and development of interventions known to prevent human illness from chemical, biological, radiological agents, and naturally occurring health threats.
Decrease the time needed to classify health events as terrorism or naturally occurring in partnership with other agencies.
Decrease the time needed to detect and report chemical, biological, radiological agents in tissue, food or environmental samples that cause threats to the public’s health.
Improve the timeliness and accuracy of communications regarding threats to the public’s health.
Decrease the time to identify causes, risk factors, and appropriate interventions for those affected by threats to the public’s health.
Decrease the time needed to provide countermeasures and health guidance to those affected by threats to the public’s health.
Decrease the time needed to restore health services and environmental safety to pre-event levels.
Improve the long-term follow-up provided to those affected by threats to the public’s health.
Decrease the time needed to implement recommendations from after-action reports following threats to the public’s health.
People around the world will live safer, healthier and longer lives through health promotion, health protection, and health diplomacy.
Health Promotion: Global health will improve by sharing knowledge, tools and other resources with people and partners around the world.
Health Protection: Americans at home and abroad will be protected from health threats through a transnational prevention, detection and response network.
Health Diplomacy: CDC and the United States Government will be a trusted and effective resource for health development and health protection around the globe.
CDC is one of the major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services. CDC's major organizational components respond individually in their areas of expertise and pool their resources and expertise on issues and specific health threats. The agency comprises these major organizational components:
Office of the Director is responsible to manage and direct the activities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; provides overall direction to, and coordination of, the scientific/medical programs of CDC; and provides leadership, coordination, and assessment of administrative management activities.
National Center for Environmental Health/ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (NCEH-ATSDR) provides national leadership in preventing and controlling disease and death resulting from the interactions between people and their environment. CDC performs many of the administrative functions for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a sister agency of CDC, and one of eight federal public health agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services. The Director of CDC also serves as the Administrator of ATSDR.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) works to prevent death and disability from non occupational injuries, including those that are unintentional and those that result from violence.
National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) provides statistical information that guides actions and policies to improve the health of the American people.
National Center for Public Health Informatics (NCPHI) provides national leadership in the application of information technology in the pursuit of public health.
National Center for Health Marketing (NCHM) provides national leadership in health marketing science and in its application to impact public health.
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) provides national leadership for preventing birth defects and developmental disabilities and for improving the health and wellness of people with disabilities.
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) works to prevent premature death and disability from chronic diseases and promotes healthy personal behaviors.
National Office of Public Health Genomics provides national leadership in fostering understanding of human genomic discoveries and how they can be used to improve health and prevent disease.
National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID) works to prevent illness, disability, and death caused by infectious diseases in the United States and around the world.
National Immunization Program (NIP) works to prevent disease, disability, and death from vaccine-preventable diseases in children and adults.
National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHSTP) provides national leadership in preventing and controlling human immunodeficiency virus infection, sexually transmitted diseases, and tuberculosis.
Coordinating Office for Global Health provides national leadership, coordination, and support for CDC’s global health activities in collaboration with CDC’s global health partners.
Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness & Emergency Response provides strategic direction for the Agency to support terrorism preparedness and emergency response efforts.
NIOSH works to ensure safety and health for all people in the workplace through research and prevention.
On July 1, 1946, the Communicable Disease Center was established. Its founder was a leader in public health, Dr. Joseph Mountin. The new agency, which was established the year after World War II ended, descended from the wartime agency, Malaria Control in War Areas. Established as a small branch of the U.S. Public Health Service, the CDC was located on the sixth floor of the Volunteer Building on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia, hundreds of miles from Washington, D.C., and other federal agencies. The organization took root deep in the South, once the heart of the malaria zone.
CDC initially focused on fighting malaria by killing mosquitoes. In fact, malaria was by far CDC’s most absorbing interest; during the first year of operations, 59 percent of its personnel were engaged in this effort. Among its 369 employees, the key jobs at CDC were originally entomology and engineering. In 1946, there were only seven medical officers on duty.
Back then, CDC’s budget was about $1 million. The insecticide DDT, available since 1943, was the primary weapon in the malaria fight, and CDC’s early challenges included obtaining enough trucks, sprayers, and shovels to wage the war on mosquitoes. In CDC’s initial years, more than six and a half million homes were sprayed, and an early organization chart was even drawn, somewhat fancifully, in the shape of a mosquito.
But CDC was soon to expand its mission. CDC founder Dr. Joseph Mountin continued to advocate for public health issues and to push for CDC to extend its responsibilities to many other communicable diseases. In 1947, CDC made a token payment of $10 to Emory University for 15 acres of land on Clifton Road in Atlanta, the home of the CDC headquarters today. CDC employees collected the money to make the purchase. The benefactor behind the “gift” was Robert Woodruff, Chairman of the Board of the Coca-Cola Company. Woodruff had a long-time interest in malaria control; it had been a problem in areas where he went hunting. The scene was now set for CDC to expand its home, its mission, and its reach.
Today, CDC is the nation's premier health promotion, prevention, and preparedness agency and a global leader in public health. During the past 60 years, its name has changed to reflect its more complex mission. While it is still known by the initials CDC, the agency’s name today is Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Originally it was Center for Disease Control and Prevention, changing to that name from the Communicable Disease Center in 1970, became eventually the "s" was added to centers.
In the six decades since its founding, CDC has broadened its focus to include chronic diseases, disabilities, injury control, workplace hazards, environmental health threats, and terrorism preparedness. Whereas malaria was once considered a threat to the country’s security, new threats have now emerged. CDC tackles emerging diseases and other health risks, including birth defects, West Nile virus, obesity, avian and pandemic flu, E. coli, auto wrecks, and bioterrorism, to name a few.
CDC applies research and findings to improve people’s daily lives and responds to health emergencies. The CDC is one of the few Bio-Safety Level 4 laboratories in the country, as well as one of only two "official" repositories of smallpox in the world. The second smallpox stores reside at the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR in the Russian Federation, though it is possible that other countries may have obtained samples during the collapse of the Soviet Union.
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