Department of Health and Human Services
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is the cabinet-level agency responsible for national public health. It is mentioned less often by name than the prolific, high-profile agencies that fall under its umbrella, which include: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Issues covered by HHS are seldom exclusively regional in nature. They are, however, of such critical interest to readers and voters that they may be among the only “national” issues a regional reporter covers without a local angle: communicable diseases, bioterror, food safety, Medicare, and prescription drug law.
HHS was formally established in 1953 by Congress and then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, overseeing matters of health, education and welfare previously handled by the Federal Security Agency. In 1965 Congress enacted the Medicare, Medicaid and Head Start programs, vastly expanding the agency's responsibilities and budget.
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20201
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
In 1979 the U.S. Department of Education became a separate agency, as did the U.S. Social Security Administration in 1995, both breaking away from HHS.
HHS employed 64,750 people in fiscal year 2008 and had a total budget of $707 billion. More than four-fifths of that amount funds Medicare and Medicaid.
As with any federal bureaucracy, you can spend hours bouncing from receptionist to receptionist and voicemail to voicemail before you hit pay dirt, so start early in the day. HHS staff and spokespeople are good sources once you find the right one. But as with other agencies, veteran Congressional staff can teach you volumes on background.
FDA: The FDA is based in Rockville, MD. Topics handled by the FDA include prescription and over-the counter drug regulation, including the hot issue of drug importation. The FDA employed 10,070 people in fiscal year 2008 and had a $2.3 billion budget.
Office of Public Affairs Directory: http://www.fda.gov/opacom/moremedia.html#phone
Centers for Disease Control
Based in Atlanta, the CDC's responsibilities reach far beyond analysis of pathogens that threaten deadly epidemics in the U.S. CDC also deals with disability, terrorism preparedness, global health, and environmental health issues from air quality to pest infestation, among other things. The CDC employed 8,896 people in fiscal year 2008 had a budget of $6.5 billion.
after hours: 404-639-2888
Medicare and Medicaid Services
Based in Baltimore, with press staff in DC. Again, HHS' main office can and will comment on contentious issues relating to Medicare, which covers senior citizens, and Medicaid, which covers the disabled and disadvantaged. CMS employed 4,477 people in fiscal year 2008 and had a whopping budget of $606.9 billion.
Press: 202-690-6145; Brian Cook, director of media relations group
Administers Head Start, the federal program catering to early childhood development for the underprivileged. Other programs are funded through grants to state and local service providers. The agency also assists immigrants and the disabled. ACF employed about 1,299 people in fiscal year 2008 and had a budget of $47.4 billion.
Press: 202-401-9215; Kenneth Wolfe, Acting Director, Office of Public Affairs
Based in Bethesda, MD, is a conglomeration of 27 scientific institutes and centers described as the “focal point” of medical research in the U.S. It supports more than 38,000 research projects on all sorts of diseases. NIH employed 17,138 in fiscal year 2008 and had a budget of $29.5 billion.
NIH Office of Public Affairs Directory: http://www.nih.gov/icd/od/ocpl/org/stafflist.htm
Based in Atlanta assesses the environment's impact on human health. The agency's Office of Regional Operations has separate staff and experts in ten regions around the country. Staff members have specialized expertise in issues affecting each geographical area.
The Administration on Aging directs federal funding for services to the elderly, in particularly the poor or isolated. The agency issues annual reports on the status of services to the elderly and emerging problems as the nation's population ages. AOA employed 116 people in fiscal year 2008 had a budget of $1.4 million.
The Health Resources and Services Administration is charged with efforts to provide equal access to healthcare. The agency oversees the nation's organ transplant system and fund medication and primary care for about half of the people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. HRSA employed 1,540 in fiscal year 2008 and had a $6.9 billion budget.
The Indian Health Service is charged with providing and facilitating health care for members of sovereign tribal nations within the U.S. It provides health services to about 1.8 million American Indians and Alaska native sin 35 states. The agency traces its mission to the Snyder Act of 1921, which authorized expenditures “for the relief of distress and conservation of health” in Native American tribes. IHS employed more than 1,500 people in fiscal 2008 and had a $4.3 billion budget.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, based in Rockville, oversees programs dealing with prevention of drug abuse, detection of mental illness, and treatment of both. It is not affiliated with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. SAMSHA employed 534 people in fiscal 2008 and had a $3.4 billion budget.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality analyzes health services in the U.S., often working in partnerhip with the NIH. Its research and analysis focuses on medical practices and their effectivenss, patient safety prevenative medicine, and cost. The agency funds research of the health care industry's service sector at colleges and Universities. It's also in Rockville.The agency employed about 300 people in fiscal 2008 and had a $355 million budget.
Does this agency's information need updating? email@example.com
William Hall, Director, News Division
The HHS Inspector General's press number is 202-619-1343.
Media relations responsibilities at HHS' constituent agencies can vary over time, so HHS recommends calling main press numbers and letting staff direct queries based on topic.