Spotlight: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As the winter flu season approaches, we take a look at one of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ major operating components: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC’s mission is “to collaborate to create the expertise, information, and tools that people and communities need to protect their health—through health promotion, prevention of disease, injury and disability, and preparedness for new health threats.”

CDC first came into being on July 1, 1946, as the Communicable Disease Center. The new organization, a direct descendent of the wartime Malaria Control in War Areas (MCWA) agency, initially focused on fighting malaria by killing mosquitoes. It took on its current name in 1992, after also being known as the National Communicable Disease Center (1946–1967), the Center for Disease Control (1970–1980) and the Centers for Disease Control (1980–1992). From its origins with a limited mission on a single floor of a small building in Atlanta, CDC has grown to become the nation’s premier health promotion, prevention, and preparedness agency—and a global leader in public health—with a 15-acre headquarters campus (still in Atlanta) and additional offices in Cincinnati, Ohio; Durham, N.C.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Hyattsville, Md.; Morgantown, West Virginia; Pittsburgh; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Spokane, Wash.; and Washington, D.C.

CDC and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) together have more than 9,000 full-time permanent staff as well as approximately 5,000 contract workers. (Although ATSDR is an independent operating division within DHS, CDC performs many of its administrative functions.)

CDC’s headquarters building, located at 1600 Clifton Road in Atlanta, houses employees from across the agency, particularly the Office of the Director, the Emergency Operations Center, and the Office of Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response. Also on the Atlanta campus are its Global Communications Center, a state-of-the-art facility completed in 2005 and built to replace some of CDC′s aging infrastructure, which houses the agency′s public information center, an exhibit /education area, a conference center, distance learning facilities and a CDC visitor security processing area; the Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory (where scientists research pathogens that require the highest levels of safety precautions, such as Ebola, viral hemorrhagic fevers, monkeypox, and avian influenza); the Environmental Health Laboratory (where researchers use advanced laboratory science and innovative techniques to prevent diseases resulting from toxic chemical exposures in the environment); and the David J. Sencer CDC Museum. Originally called the Global Health Odyssey Museum, the facility is a Smithsonian affiliate that was established in 1996, in conjunction with CDC’s 50th anniversary and the Centennial Olympic Games; it was renamed last year in honor of the agency’s longest-serving director.

President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request for CDC/ATSDR is just over $11 billion, including $4.9 billion in base budget authority, a $660 million decrease from FY 2012 and $1.4 billion below FY 2010. It also includes a request for $903 million from the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, an increase of $78 million above FY 2012, to invest in prevention and public health programs to improve health and restrain growth in health care costs.

CDC headquarters in Atlanta, GA