The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Institution Tour
The intended purpose of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the protection of all American’s health while also providing essential human services. This includes studying advances in medicine for public health and social services (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: USAGov). This federal agency acts as a parent agency to over one hundred additional agencies. Some of the most well-known include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Indian Health Service (IHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) just to name a few (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: USAGov). The HHS put into place the Global Health Strategy in January 2012, stating that Americans health is linked with the rest of the world (Daulaire, 2012). The initiative features ten objectives that range from enhanced global health surveillance and preventing infectious diseases to health threats and health diplomacy (Daulaire, 2012). The Department of Health and Human Services' goal is the protect the health and inform US citizens and their families of services that could be offered to them to help protect their loved ones. The purpose of this essay is to overview the history of the Department of Health and Human Services, give some of the primary sources that their website provides, and discuss some of the hurdles the agency has faced in the past and present.
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The idea behind the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services dates back to 1798, with a program created for the relief of sick and disabled merchant seamen (HHS Office & Digital Communications Division, 2017). As a result, this established a national network of hospitals specifically for their care and was the forerunner of today's U.S. Public Health Service (HHS Office & Digital Communications Division, 2017). Today, the Department of Health and Human Services does its best to involve itself in programs to help care for the health and medical safety of United States' citizens. One of the most recent programs the HHS has been committed too was the adaptation of the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010 and put in place comprehensive U.S. health insurance reforms (HHS Office & Digital Communications Division, 2017). The Department of Health and Human Services administers more than 100 programs across its operating divisions. These programs protect the health of all Americans and provide essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves (Public Affairs, 2016). The HHS has taken on many forms since 1887. It all started with a one-room laboratory on Staten Island for the research of disease, which was funded by the federal government (HHS Office & Digital Communications Division, 2017). This program was an early precursor to the National Institutes of Health. In 1906, the Pure Food and Drugs Act was passed, which allowed the government to monitor the purity of foods and the safety of medicines (HHS Office & Digital Communications Division, 2017). This responsibility now falls to the Food and Drug Administration, which is part of the HHS.
Additionally, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Health Division was created in 1921 and later transformed into the Indian Health Service (HHS Office & Digital Communications Division, 2017). This department transferred to the HHS from the Department of the Interior. Another essential agency that was created 25 years after the Bureau of Indian Affairs Health Division was named the Communicable Disease Center (HHS Office & Digital Communications Division, 2017). Furthermore, in 1965, Medicare and Medicaid programs were designed, making comprehensive health care available to millions of Americans (HHS Office & Digital Communications Division, 2017). Lastly, in 1953, President Eisenhower established the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), which opened its doors on April 11 of that year (HHS Office & Digital Communications Division, 2017). On May 4, 1980, the HEW then transformed into the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS Office & Digital Communications Division, 2017). In 2001, the HHS gained notoriety when it responded to the nation's first bioterrorism attack, which was the delivery of anthrax through the mail (HHS Office & Digital Communications Division, 2017). Over the years, the HHS has transformed and adapted due to the merging of different organizations.
As with all organizations, there comes a time when they experience setbacks or issues. “The United States prepares for and responds to diverse public health challenges such as the flu, infectious diseases, natural disasters, and acts of terrorism, and the experience becomes part of the evidence that supports plans and operations” (University, 2013). Several current issues that the HHS and its departments are experiencing today revolve around improving care for vulnerable populations, reducing problems in hospice care, ensuring access to safe and appropriate services for children, and attempting to curb the opioid epidemic (2017 Top Management & Performance Challenges Facing HHS). The HHS is trying to improve care for vulnerable populations by providing residents and families information about the quality of nursing homes so that they can make informed decisions by addressing conditions in nursing facilities (2017 Top Management & Performance Challenges Facing HHS). They also are trying to reduce the use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes (2017 Top Management & Performance Challenges Facing HHS). The reduction of antipsychotic medications has led to a 34% decrease in use since the program's inception (2017 Top Management & Performance Challenges Facing HHS). Another area of their focus is reducing problems in hospice care by providing public access to hospice quality data. The HHS is currently acting against providers that are fraudulently enrolling Medicare beneficiaries.
Additionally, the HHS is also working on issues with access to safe and appropriate services for children (2017 Top Management & Performance Challenges Facing HHS). One way they are ensuring the safety of children is by requiring staff to undergo criminal background checks through the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act (2017 Top Management & Performance Challenges Facing HHS). The HHS is partnering with States' governments to help operate Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program to provide medical care for children (2017 Top Management & Performance Challenges Facing HHS). The partnership includes children from financially needy families, those that reside in foster care, and children with disabilities (2017 Top Management & Performance Challenges Facing HHS). They also assist with support for those families while their parents work or attend school (2017 Top Management & Performance Challenges Facing HHS). As a result, it has led to the discovery that there is a quality of care concern related to children that do not receive medical or dental services.
Another hurdle that the HHS is facing involves curbing the opioid epidemic; one example includes addressing the inappropriate prescribing of opioids. Additionally, the HHS is working with the FDA to expand its efforts for the safe use of opioids, which includes encouraging pharmaceutical companies to develop formulations that are more resistant to abuse (2017 Top Management & Performance Challenges Facing HHS). Furthermore, they have created prescription drug monitoring programs that restrict at-risk beneficiaries to pharmacies or prescribers. Through all the research that is being conducted, it provides beneficial insight into what can and cannot be accomplished with scientific research.
Government-funded scientific research is beneficial to the HHS and all the agencies that it manages since they participate in studies and run tests to help improve access to care for needy families. A significant benefit of government-funded research is that it can be useful for the economy; it opens job opportunities and death due to diseases, and cancer has declined. Researchers must prove to the government that their studies are factual and must be able to back up their claims before they can get approved for a government grant. Scientific innovation is the strongest at the government level due to funding once the research studies are proven. In the private sector, researchers must have sponsors if they cannot get government funding. Some researchers have graduated from educational institutions with backgrounds in science, which is essential to get a variety of scientists. At the commercial level, research is excellent for companies testing and researching new products.
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Finally, the HHS has been addressing avenues for opioid addiction regarding inadequate access to treatment and looking into treatment for opioid use disorders. With the improvement of being able to access the overdose treatment naloxone by getting the FDA to expedite the approval. These are just a few examples of what the HHS has been doing to try and address the nation's medical setbacks.
In Conclusion, the Health and Human Services department is a large grouping of multiple agencies trying to make the health and lives of people better through research and scientific studies. If it were not for these studies, the United States might not be further along with cancer research and solving the epidemic of diseases that plague American citizens and foreign countries. The HHS started as encompassing everything that they encountered, and then they broke down into several agencies to better manage the workload. They all have a mission to accomplish, and with research and government funding, the HHS and its organizations can achieve anything that pertains to the overall health of the US and foreign countries.
- 2017 Top Management & Performance Challenges Facing HHS. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2019, from https://oig.hhs.gov/reports-and-publications/top-challenges/2017/
- HHS Office, & Digital Communications Division. (2017, February 10). HHS Historical Highlights. Retrieved November 19, 2019, from https://www.hhs.gov/about/historical-highlights/index.html.
- Public Affairs. (2016, March 18). Programs & Services. Retrieved November 19, 2019, from https://www.hhs.gov/programs/index.html.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: USAGov. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2019, from https://www.usa.gov/federal-agencies/u-s-department-of-health-and-human-services.
- Daulaire, N. (2012, July 9). The Global Health Strategy of the Department of Health and Human Services: Building on the Lessons of PEPFAR. Retrieved November 23, 2019, from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy2.apus.edu/docview/1027881787/fulltextPDF/B8AAD6E4B4D145BFPQ/1?accountid=8289.
- Leavitt, M. (2007). Department of Health and Human Services. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 1(1), 7-7. doi:10.1097/DMP.0b013e3180cac8c7
- University, C. (2013, April 8). Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved November 23, 2019, from https://doi-org.ezproxy1.apus.edu/10.1097/DMP.0b013e3180cac8c7.
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