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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or CDC) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services based in Atlanta, Georgia. Recognized as the leading United States government agency for protecting the public health and safety of people, the CDC provides credible information to enhance health decisions and promotes health through strong partnerships with state health departments and other organizations. The CDC focuses national attention on developing and applying disease prevention and control (especially infectious diseases), environmental health, health promotion and education activities designed to improve the health of the people of the United States.
The CDC states that it has two primary health protection goals:
- Health promotion and prevention of disease, injury, and disability: All people, especially those at higher risk due to health disparities, will achieve their optimal lifespan with the best possible quality of health in every stage of life.
- Preparedness: People in all communities will be protected from infectious, occupational, environmental, and terrorist threats.
The CDC includes the following Centers, Institutes, and Offices:
- Coordinating Center for Environmental Health and Injury Prevention
- National Center for Environmental Health / Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
- National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
- Coordinating Center for Health Information and Services
- National Center for Health Statistics
- National Center for Public Health Informatics
- National Center for Health Marketing
- Coordinating Center for Health Promotion
- National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
- National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
- Office of Genomics and Disease Prevention
- Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases
- Coordinating Office for Global Health
- Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness & Emergency Response
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Known as the Communicable Disease Center until 1946 and as the Center for Disease Control until 1970, the agency was founded in 1946 to help control malaria. The CDC has remained at the forefront of public health efforts to prevent and control infectious and chronic diseases, injuries, workplace hazards, disabilities, and environmental health threats.
The workforce at CDC/ATSDR totals more than 9,000 employees in 170 occupations with a public health focus, including physicians, statisticians, epidemiologists, laboratory experts, behavioral scientists, and health communicators.
Although its national headquarters is in Atlanta, more than 3,000 CDC employees work at other locations throughout the United States. Additional CDC staff are deployed to countries around the globe, assigned to almost all state health departments, and dispersed to numerous local health agencies on both long- and short-term assignments.
The CDC campus in Atlanta houses facilities for the research of extremely dangerous biological agents. This setting was well represented in the Dustin Hoffman film Outbreak, although the location depicted in the film was supposed to be the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases bio-research facility. The CDC labs also figure prominently in the book "The Demon in the Freezer" by Richard Preston and "Virus Hunter" by C.J. Peters, former head of the Special Pathogens Branch at the CDC.
The CDC also publishes the peer-reviewed journal, available for free on their website, Emerging Infectious Diseases.
The CDC is one of the few Bio-Safety Level 4 laboratories in the country and is the only repository of smallpox in the country. The only other "official" smallpox stores reside in Russia though it is likely that other countries may have obtained samples during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ensuing chaos.
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