Health and Human Services Department

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the cabinet-level department of the EXECUTIVE BRANCH of the federal government most involved with the health, safety, and welfare of the U.S. population. A wide variety of HHS agencies administer more than 300 programs, which focus on such initiatives as providing financial assistance, HEALTH CARE, and advocacy to those in need; conducting medical and social science research; assuring food and drug safety; and enforcing laws and regulations related to human services.

The HHS originated in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), which was created in 1953. In 1980, the Department of Education Organization Act (20 U.S.C.A. § 3508) redesignated HEW the Department of Health and Human Services.

The secretary of HHS advises the president of the United States on the federal government's health, welfare, and income security plans, policies, and programs. He or she directs HHS staff in carrying out department programs and activities and promotes public understanding of HHS goals, programs, and objectives. The secretary administers these functions through the Office of the Secretary and the individual agencies of the HHS: the Administration on Aging; Administration for Children and Families; the CENTERS FOR MEDICARE & MEDICAID SERVICES; the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry; the FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION; the Health Resources and Services Administration; the Indian Health Service; the National Institutes of Health; the SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION; and the Program Support Center. The SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, once located within HHS, became an independent agency in 1995.

Office of the Secretary

The Office of the Secretary of the HHS includes the offices of the Assistant Secretaries, the Inspector General, and the General Counsel. Individuals in these offices, along with other senior officials at HHS, assist the secretary with the overall management responsibilities of the HHS and aid in the day-to-day operations of the department. For example, the Program Support Center (PSC), which is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management, offers support services in such areas as human resources and financial management.

In addition, the Office for Civil Rights administers and enforces laws that prohibit discrimination in federally assisted health and human services programs. These laws include Title VI of the CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964 (42 U.S.C.A. § 2000d et seq.), which prohibits discrimination with regard to race, color, or national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance; the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (42 U.S.C.A. §...

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