The Department of Health and Human Services is the United States government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. The Department includes more than 300 programs, covering a wide spectrum of activities. Some of these programs include:
· Medical and social science research
· Preventing outbreak of infectious disease, including immunization services
· Assuring food and drug safety
· Medicare (health insurance for elderly and disabled Americans) and
· Financial assistance for low-income families
· Child support enforcement
· Improving maternal and infant health
· Head Start (pre-school education and services)
· Preventing child abuse and domestic violence
· Substance abuse treatment and prevention
· Services for older Americans, including home-delivered meals
· Comprehensive health services delivery for American Indians and Alaska Natives
HHS is the largest grant making agency in the federal government, providing some 60,000 grants per year. HHS’ Medicare program is the nation’s largest health insurer, handling more than 900 million claims per year. HHS also works closely with state, local and tribal governments, and many HHS-funded services are provided at the local level by state, county or tribal agencies, or through private sector grantees.
The Department’s programs are administered by 11 HHS operating divisions. In addition to the services they deliver, the HHS programs provide for equitable treatment of beneficiaries nationwide, and they enable the collection of national health and other data.
The Secretary of HHS under President Clinton was Donna E. Shalala. She was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and educated at Western College. After graduating in 1962, she served two years in the Peace Corps in Iran, then returned to the United States to attend Syracuse University.
After graduating from Syracuse in 1970, she taught political science at Bernard Baruch College in New York City, then taught politics and education at Columbia Teacher’s College. In 1975 Shalala became director and treasurer of the Municipal Assistance Corporation, which helped reverse New York City’s financial collapse.
In 1977 she became assistant secretary for policy research and development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Washington, D.C. At HUD she promoted women’s issues, working toward the creation of battered women’s shelters, mortgage credits for women, and anti-discrimination measures.
Shalala served as president of Hunter College in New York City from 1980 until 1988. In 1988, when she was named chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she became the first woman to head a Big Ten school. Shalala also chaired the Children’s Defense Fund, and in 1993 she was selected by President Bill Clinton (1993-2001 ) to be secretary of health and human services.
A dynamic leader, she outlined five major policy initiatives for her first year: revision of health-care financing, expansion of the Head Start program for preschool children, universal childhood immunizations, expansion of AIDS research, and welfare reform.
President George W. Bush’s candidate for Secretary of HHS is Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson. He was born and raised in the small, central Wisconsin town of Elroy. His father ran a gas station and general store in that town of 1,500. Gov.
Thompson’s first job at age six was sorting and polishing eggs in his father’s store. The governor’s mother was a school teacher. Gov. Thompson toppled a long-time incumbent of the state Assembly in 1966 to begin his career in public service.
He knocked on nearly every door in a district that spanned three counties to beat the man who had represented the area for almost 20 years. He was elected assistant Assembly minority leader in 1973 and Assembly minority leader in 1981. He practiced law during the majority of his time in the Legislature.
Gov. Thompson was first elected governor in 1986, surprising the political experts by receiving 53 percent of the vote and defeating the incumbent Democratic governor. Gov. Thompson was re-elected in 1990, garnering 58 percent of the vote.
The governor in 1994 became the first in Wisconsin’s history elected to a third, four-year term and on November 3, 1998, was elected to an unprecedented fourth term.Since the day he took office, Gov. Thompson has pursued an ambitious and innovative agenda focused on five main policy areas: the economy, ending welfare, education reform, the environment and crime.
He plans to work on the same sort of issues as Secretary of the HHS cabinet. He also plans to improve housing for the elderly.