Health and Human Services (HHS)

The United States Department of Health and Human Services


The US Health and Human Services department is the United States government’s principal agency that is responsible for protecting every American’s health and providing human service to those who are not able to help themselves. It is a department of the United States Executive Cabinet and headed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The HHS has over 300 programs that cover the majority of activities in health informatics. Those programs are administered and divided into 11 different divisions within the HHS department. The HHS is the largest health insurer in the nation which is responsible for handling over one billion claims each year. HHS has taken the lead in recent years on coordinating the integration of IT into American health system at the National level by launching numerous initiatives and programs that incorporate technology into mainstream medicine. Annually, the department receives about 640.7 billion dollars of which lees than one percent is spent on IT. In 2007, the IT budget of the agency increased 4.8% to 5.5 billion dollars mostly in response to bioterrorism and infrastructure concerns.

HHS Facts and Statistics

  • Formed: May 4, 1980 (Split from Department of Health, Education, and Welfare)
  • Headquarters: Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Washington DC
  • Employees: 67,000 (2004)
  • Executives: Kathleen Sebilius, Secretary Bill Corr


  • HHS is working to achieve "national standards" in the field of health messaging and vocabulary through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).
  • HHS is working to create a National Health Information Network to store and relay personal health records in a more efficient manner.
  • HHS has implemented the American Health Information Community (AHIC) to make recommendations on the future integration of Health IT.
  • HHS has developed a national certification of Health Information Technologists that takes into account unique aspects specific to the medical community.
  • HHS is working to develop standards of privacy and security standards related to Health IT within the state and federal government as well as the private sector.

Program Highlights:

  • Health and Social Science Research
  • Disease Prevention such as use of immunization shots
  • Being Prepared for medical emergency such as a virus outbreak or potential terrorism
  • Substance abuse treatment and prevention such as cigarette smoke
  • Improving infant health
  • Providing financial assistance to families with low income
  • Applying new health technologies to increase the response time, error-rate, and provide new types of medications to diseases such as cancer
  • Providing Medicare and Medicaid for the elderly - Largest health insurer, handles over 1 billion claims each year. Every one in four Americans have either Medicare or Medicaid.

Immunization services

assuring food and drug safety

Health information technology

Head Start (Pre-school education and services)

Goals of HHS IT

  • Improve health care quality
  • Prevent medical errors
  • Reduce health care costs
  • Increase administrative efficiencies
  • Decrease paperwork
  • Expand access to affordable care

Agencies in HHS:

Major Departments of HHS

Web Resources

US Department of Health and Human Services
HHS on Wikipedia
National Health Information Infrastructure
HHS Health Information Technology

Related Terminology

American Health Information Community (AHIC)
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Health Alert Network (HAN)
Institutes of Medicine (IOM)
National Health Information Network (NHIN)



Seal of the Department of Health and Human Services

external image 255px-Kathleen_Sebelius_official_portrait.jpg
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

HHS Headquarters (Hubert H. Humphrey Building)