Health and Human Services, Department of

Health-and-Human-Services-Department-ofHealth and Human Services, Department of, is an executive department of the United States government that works to ensure public health and to assist children and families. The secretary of health and human services directs the department and serves in the president’s Cabinet. The president appoints the secretary with the consent of the U.S. Senate. The department is sometimes called HHS.

The department was created in 1953 as the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. In 1979, Congress passed legislation transferring most education programs from that department to a new Cabinet-level Department of Education. The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was renamed the Department of Health and Human Services. The HHS website at presents information on the department’s activities.

Organization. The department is divided into 11 agencies and the Office of the Secretary. The first 8 agencies listed are part of the U.S. Public Health Service (see Public Health Service (PHS)). The department includes the surgeon general, who serves as the nation’s chief health adviser (see Surgeon general of the United States).

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality oversees research programs. It seeks to raise the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry works to prevent threats to public health from toxic substances. Its responsibilities include waste site assessment, emergency response, and education and training.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aims to prevent and control disease, injury, and disability. It provides health information and statistics and conducts research to track down the sources of epidemics.

The Food and Drug Administration works to ensure that foods, cosmetics, drugs, and medical devices are safe and effective. It oversees the review and approval of new medicines and medical devices.

The Health Resources and Services Administration works to improve health care access for people who are uninsured or isolated. It distributes grants to state governments and health care providers.

The Indian Health Service provides health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Indian health system includes hospitals, clinics, and other facilities.

The National Institutes of Health is the government’s primary medical research agency. It includes a number of institutes and centers that conduct and support a wide range of biomedical and behavioral research.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration oversees programs for people with mental illnesses or substance abuse problems. It provides both prevention and treatment services.

The Administration on Aging oversees programs for the elderly. It provides home and community-based services to older Americans.

The Administration for Children and Families oversees such programs as Head Start, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Child Support Enforcement. It also administers adoption assistance, foster care, and child abuse prevention programs.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administers the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Medicare provides health insurance for people age 65 and older and for some people with disabilities. Medicaid provides health care for many people who could not otherwise afford it.

History. In the 1800’s, state and local governments provided most government welfare services. Federal activities in this field began in the 1900’s. In 1939, the Federal Security Agency was established to administer major programs in the fields of social security, job placement, education, and public health.

In 1953, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) was established, and all Federal Security Agency functions were transferred to it. These functions included those of the Office of Education, the Public Health Service, and the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration administers federal programs to provide retirement, disability, and death benefits.

In 1979, Congress enacted a law that created the Department of Education and moved most education programs to the new department. The following year, HEW was renamed the Department of Health and Human Services. The Administration for Children and Families was formed as part of HHS in 1991. In 1995, the Social Security Administration was separated from the department and made an independent federal agency.