The History of the CDC
Germs, disease, and contagion are all around us. (43) So whose working to keep us safe from these public health hazards? That’s the job of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, better known as the CDC.
(44) Founded in 1946, the CDC was created to help stem the spread of malaria from infected mosquitos across the United States. (45) The Center is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, although today there are satellite offices across the country and they are responsible for much more than mosquitoes. With world-class scientists and state-of-the-art testing facilities, the CDC is responsible for public health and safety, working to address workplace hazards, environmental health issues, and mental health, in addition to investigating and working to eradicate infectious and chronic diseases.
The CDC is a government agency, overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services. (46) It’s numbers have grown from a relatively small team of less than 400 with a modest operating budget of a few million dollars to an agency with over 10,000 employees and an operating budget in the billions of dollars.
Part of the responsibilities of the CDC include educating the public on matters of health and coordinating immunization responses to ensure vaccines are available nationwide. They also work closely with the health agencies of other countries as leaders in medical sciences worldwide. (47) The CDC played a role in the global efforts to eradicate smallpox, which they were successful by 1980 in doing so. They also worked to immunize the nation against polio in the 1950s.
(48) In its seventy-plus year long history, the CDC has evolved from a small agency focused on mosquitoes and malaria to an organization responsible for public health and education. New infectious diseases, environmental hazards like hurricanes, and other health emergencies continue to keep the CDC busy. Today the CDC continues to work to share guidance on how to stay safe and healthy as a world-leader in science and health.