What Is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)?

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is a Cabinet-level government department that provides health and human services and promotes research in social services, medicine, and public health. It achieves this through 11 agencies that manage more than 100 programs. The agencies include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF).

Key Takeaways

  • The Department of Health and Human Services is a federal department concerned with promoting the health and wellbeing of U.S. citizens.
  • The Department is also responsible for promoting research in social services, medicine, and public health.
  • It has 11 operating divisions and over 100 programs across its various agencies.
  • In addition to providing human services, HHS also implements programs related to social service, civil rights, and healthcare privacy.
  • Two of the most well-known divisions of the HHS are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Understanding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

The Department of Health and Human Services was originally founded as a Cabinet-level department in 1953 as the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). In 1979, the Department of Education Organization Law created a separate Department of Education. The remaining agencies were reorganized as the Department of Health and Human Services on May 4, 1980.

The HHS provides grant opportunities and guidance related to the Covid-19 pandemic that individuals can apply for on its website.

HHS implements parts of the Affordable Care Act, enforces the HIPAA Privacy Rule, ensures that human-subject research conducted by Department-funded institutions obeys regulations, and operates the Head Start program for children. It is also the largest grant-making agency in the country.

HHS Agencies and Offices

The Department of Health and Human Services aims to "protect the health of all Americans and provide essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves." To achieve this mission, HHS has 11 operating divisions, which conduct various research.

This includes eight agencies in the U.S. Public Health Service and three human services agencies, all of which offer a variety of health and human services. The following is a description of some of them.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC is the United States' primary health protection agency. It conducts research and analysis to protect the population from health threats. The CDC focuses on science and technology to prevent diseases, manages the nation's biggest health problems that cause death and disability, and promotes healthy and safe behaviors, communities, and environments.

Administration for Community Living (ACL)

The ACL focuses on the care and health of older adults, people with disabilities, families, and caregivers. The ACL manages many programs that provide assistance on health and wellness, protecting rights and preventing abuse, strengthening the networks of community-based organizations, and funding research.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

The FDA protects the public health by "ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation." The FDA also aims to reduce the use of tobacco products by minors as well as regulating all tobacco products.

53

The number of novel drugs that the FDA approved in 2020, which is the second-highest count in 20 years.

Other Divisions

The other operating divisions include the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Indian Health Service (IHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 

HHS oversees more than 100 programs across its 11 operating divisions that consist of social service programs, civil rights, and healthcare privacy programs, disaster preparedness programs, and health-related research.

A variety of social service programs are offered, geared toward people with low income, disabilities, military families, and senior citizens. HHS oversees healthcare rights in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA protects patients' medical information and workers' health insurance when unemployed, and also sets guidelines surrounding health insurance. 

What Does the Abbreviation HHS Stand For?

HHS stands for "Health and Human Services" and refers to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is a branch of the federal government that aims to promote and improve the health of all Americans by providing a variety of health and human services and programs.

What Does the HHS Do?

The HHS is responsible for promoting and enhancing the health of the citizens of the United States of America. It has over 100 programs that focus on health, science, care, social services, prevention, and wellness, all aimed to ensure the well-being of the American people.

Who Is the Current HHS Secretary?

The current HHS Secretary is Xavier Becerra. He is the 25th secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the first Latino to hold the office.