The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or CDC) is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services based in unincorporated DeKalb County, Georgia, United States adjacent to the campus of Emory University and east of downtown Atlanta. It works to protect public health and safety by providing information to enhance health decisions, and it promotes health through 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, occupational safety and health, health promotion, prevention and education activities designed to improve the health of the people of the United States.
On July 1, 1946, the Communicable Disease Center was established as a small branch of the U.S. Public Health Service and was located on the sixth floor of the Volunteer Building on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia, in what was once the heart of the malaria zone. The new agency was descended from the wartime agency, Malaria Control in War Areas.
With a budget at the time of about $1 million, 59 percent of its personnel were engaged in mosquito abatement using the insecticide DDT and habitat control. Among its 369 employees, the key jobs at CDC were originally entomology and engineering. In CDC's initial years, more than six and a half million homes were sprayed. In 1946, there were only seven medical officers on duty and an early organization chart was drawn, somewhat fancifully, in the shape of a mosquito.
CDC founder Dr. Joseph Mountin continued to advocate for public health issues and to push for CDC to extend its responsibilities to many other communicable diseases. In 1947, CDC made a token payment of $10 to Emory University for 15 acres of land on Clifton Road in Atlanta, the home of CDC headquarters today. CDC employees collected the money to make the purchase. The benefactor behind the “gift” was Robert Woodruff, Chairman of the Board of the Coca-Cola Company. Woodruff had a long-time interest in malaria control; it had been a problem in areas where he went hunting.
While it’s still known by the initials CDC, the agency’s name today is Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Currently the CDC focus has broadened to include chronic diseases, disabilities, injury control, workplace hazards, environmental health threats, and terrorism preparedness. CDC combats emerging diseases and other health risks, including birth defects, West Nile virus, obesity, avian and pandemic flu, E. coli, auto wrecks, and bioterrorism, to name a few.
CDC operates under the Department of Health and Human Services umbrella.
The CDC has one of the few Bio-Safety Level 4 laboratories in the country, as well as one of only two "official" repositories of smallpox in the world. The second smallpox store reside at the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR in the Russian Federation, though it is possible that other countries may have obtained samples during the collapse of the Soviet Union.
CDC’s budget for 2008 is $8.8 billion. Today the staff numbers nearly 15,000 (including 6,000 contractors and 840 Commissioned Corps officers) in 170 occupations. Other CDC job titles include engineer, entomologist, epidemiologist, biologist, physician, veterinarian, behaviorial scientist, nurse, medical technologist, economist, health communicator, toxicologist, chemist, computer scientist, and statistician.
In addition to the Atlanta headquarters, the CDC has 10 other locations in the United States and Puerto Rico. Those locations include Anchorage, Alaska; Cincinnati, Ohio; Fort Collins, Colorado; Hyattsville, Maryland; Morgantown, West Virginia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Research Triangle Park, North Carolina; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Spokane, Washington; and Washington, D.C. In addition, CDC staff are located in state and local health agencies, quarantine/border health offices at ports of entry, and 45 countries around the world, from Angola to Zimbabwe.
More than a third of CDC’s employees are members of a racial or ethnic minority group, and women account for nearly 60 percent of CDC’s workforce. Nearly 40 percent of employees have a master’s degree; 25 percent have a Ph.D.; and 10 percent have medical degrees. The average age of a CDC worker is 46.
The CDC campus in Atlanta houses facilities for the research of extremely dangerous biological agents. This setting was featured 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 conducts the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the world’s largest, on-going telephone health survey system.
CDC consists of centers which include the Coordinating Center for Infectious Disease, Coordinating Center for Environmental and Occupational Health and Injury Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, and Coordinating Center for Public Health and Information Services.
The CDC Foundation operates independently from CDC as a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization incorporated in the State of Georgia. The creation of the Foundation was authorized by section 399F of the Public Health Service Act to support the mission of CDC in partnership with the private sector, including organizations, foundations, businesses, educational groups, and individuals.