From its headquarters in Greater Atlanta, Georgia, the Department of Health and Human Services operates its nationwide agency known as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This agency was officially formed in 1992 as part of a long standing tradition of the federal government in its mission to combat the spread of disease. Begun in 1942 with the Office of Malaria Control Activities, the government's function went on to incorporate within its scope the study of other communicable diseases, finally establishing the Centers for Disease Control in 1980. Prevention became part of the agency's overview twelve years later: thus the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention were born. This paper will provide a thorough description of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the demographics of those they serve, the types of services this agency offers, and a reason one might have for choosing this agency.
The CDC (initially called the Communicable Disease Center in 1946) was the outcome of collaboration between government and private finance, specifically subsidies from the Rockefeller Foundation, which had been involved in modern medical practice since the early 20th century. The spread of malaria during WWII had brought disease prevention to the forefront, with the League of Nations even stepping up programs to thwart the spread of infectious disease. As the CDC itself reports, "Pursuit of malaria was by far the most absorbing interest of CDC during its early years, with over 50% of its personnel engaged in it" (Our History -- Our Story, 2010). For this reason, the CDC housed around 400 employees in its early days, the most important of whom were "entomologists and engineers" -- in other words, the people who concluded that DDT should be sprayed in neighborhoods nationwide in an effort to eliminate the disease carrying mosquitoes.
Since then, the CDC has worked "with states and other partners to provide a system of health surveillance to monitor and prevent disease outbreaks (including bioterrorism), implement disease prevention strategies, and maintain national health statistics" (Our History -- Our Story, 2010). To do so, the CDC monitors the international community as well and has operations set up in 25 different foreign countries.
Other public health issues that began to receive attention from the CDC by the 1950s as the mission of the Center expanded were the study of venereal disease, which fell under the CDC's jurisdiction -- as did the study of tuberculosis. In the 60s, immunization became part of its official program. With these several new programs under its belt the CDC became known as the Center for Disease Control by 1970. Today the CDC surveys influenza (strands such as H1N1), smallpox, and such non-infectious diseases as obesity and workplace safety. The impact of the CDC's studies on non-infectious disease can, in fact, be measured by the draw they receive: the CDC's study of obesity is the number one most popular page on the Centers' website; behind it in second, third, and fourth place are concerns about travelers' health, sexually transmitted diseases, and information about vaccinations. The CDC hosts a vast supply of information for an increasingly health conscious public (CDC eHealth Metrics Dashboard, 2010).
Aside from the numerous statistics concerning health issues (infectious and non-infectious disease related) the CDC also monitors abortions performed in the country. With figures from 2008, 2009, and 2010 still yet to be published, the CDC's tally of abortions reported is just shy of 50,000,000 since 1970. The peak year of reported abortions was 1990. The CDC reports a steady but slow decline since then (Abortion Surveillance -- United States). Such a public health issue is just one example of the many that the CDC tracks. In fact, the CDC public health website has a veritable A to Z. index of public health related items that visitors can access to deepen their understanding of any number of specified subjects.
In this way, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prove to serve a wide demographic, offering intelligence on everything from those contemplating suicide and/or suffering from depression to syphilis, weight loss, and immunizations for those traveling abroad. The CDC is a worldwide network of up-to-date information on all of the most popular topics for a health-conscious public -- and in over ten different languages as well.
As the number one source of all health-related information, the CDC strives to reach the greatest demographic possible, providing information for children, mothers, elderly, adolescents, homosexuals, sexually-actives, and clinically diagnosed. Some examples of the services provided by CDC that help illustrate the way in which each of these demographics is served may be seen in the following:
Suicide Prevention: According to the CDC, "more than 34,000 suicides occur in the United States" every year (Preventing Suicide, 2011). CDC notes that September10th is World Suicide Prevention Day, lists a number of risk factors that might contribute to suicide, and provides a number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as well as a link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. The American Association of Suicidology is also recommended as a source of viable information by the CDC.
Adult Smoking: CDC Vital Signs reports a decrease in adult smoking over the past five years; however, it still notes that there are 45.3 million adult smokers in the United States. CDC offers a number of options for those who wish to quit or do something about smoking in the community, from websites to visit to support groups to Smoke Free organizations. The Office on Smoking and Health provides the CDC with its information on smoking as a public health hazard, and the CDC thus makes itself a channel for those who desiring information on the subject (CDC Reports Vital Information on Smoking, 2011).
Alcohol and Baby: The CDC also provides service for those affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Included in this service are treatment options, links to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and partnership with a number of advocacy groups for women's health and child development.
Travel Notices: The CDC provides up-to-date information on the latest outbreaks: cholera in Haiti, polio in Tajikstan, rabies in Bali, Dengue in the Tropics, Yellow Fever in Brazil (Travelers' Health, 2011). The CDC provides instant access to news, destinations, vaccinations; it is set up to help you find a clinic in your own local area to receive the vaccines appropriate for your travel. These local clinics provide patients with packets of information about diseases that are persistent in the areas in which you will be traveling: this information includes CDC recommended hospitals in the area as well as facts regarding the transmission and signs of specific diseases. The 2012 Yellow Book also serves as a travel health reference book.
Aside from these services, the CDC performs numerous studies on the control and prevention of infectious and non-infectious diseases: one of the latest CDC studies for example is on ADHD, and it reports an "increasing prevalence" of ADHD in children. The CDC offers free material on understanding ADHD and how to track the warning signs of it in children, data and statistics about ADHD and children, and, as always, provides contact information for a national organization dedicated to researching the particular problem -- here, the National Resource Center on ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, 2010).
Or the CDC provides the most recent in scholarly research concerning infectious diseases like the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea. Scholarly research articles include: "Cephalosporin Susceptibility Among Neisseria gonorrhoeae Isolates -- United States, 2000-2010," "Azithromycin Resistance in Hawaii," and "Neisseria gonorrhoeae with Reduced Susceptibility to Azithromycin -- San Diego County, California, 2009" (Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Gonorrhea, 2011). In this manner, the CDC acts as a centralizing force in the gathering and dissemination of information regarding the all of the most threatening diseases that Americans face both domestically and abroad.
These services and many more like them are available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and draw numerous visitors daily to seek information ranging from workplace safety to children's health and the importance of preventing the spread of infectious diseases.
Why Choose the CDC?
One reason to look into the CDC is that it is an agency that has been in existence for just over half a century but has made a lasting impact and imprint on American society that could only be mirrored by the federal government itself. Thanks to the support of private foundations like the Rockefeller Foundation as well as assistance from the federal government, the CDC has grown from a DDT-spraying facility to a world-wide alarum bell for the spread of disease. More than that, it has shown itself to be cogent, unifying force for the gathering and disseminating of information regarding public health and safety.
The CDC also makes itself relevant by taking an interest in popular media. For example, for the recent release of the Hollywood film Contagion, the CDC has compiled information regarding outbreaks and Hollywood portrayals. Indeed, Hollywood itself has a fascination…