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Our History - Our Story

Building a firm foundation, embracing the future. On July 1, 1946 the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) opened its doors and occupied one floor of a small building in Atlanta. Its primary mission was simple yet highly challenging: prevent malaria from spreading across the nation. Armed with a budget of only $10 million and fewer than 400 employees, the agency’s early challenges included obtained enough trucks, sprayers, and shovels necessary to wage war on mosquitoes.

As the organization took root deep in the South, once known as the heart of the malaria zone, CDC Founder Dr. Joseph Mountin continued to advocate for public health issues and to push for CDC to extend its responsibilities to 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 that now serves as CDC headquarters.

Today, CDC is one of the major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Serves and is recognized as the nation’s premiere health promotion, prevention, and preparedness agencies.

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Early Years

Descended from the wartime agency Malaria Control in War Areas (MCWA), the CDC initially focused on fighting malaria by killing mosquitoes.

Pursuit of malaria was by far the most absorbing interest of CDC during its early years, with over 50 percent of its personnel engaged in it.

Among its fewer than 400 original employees, the key jobs at CDC were those of entomologists and engineers. In fact, CDC had only seven medical officers on staff in 1946.

DDT, available since 1943, was its primary weapon, and the CDC′s early challenges included obtaining enough trucks, sprayers, and shovels necessary to wage the war on mosquitoes.

In its initial years, over 6.5 million homes were sprayed, and an early organization chart was even drawn—somewhat fancifully—in the shape of a mosquito.

CDC′s first budget was under $10 million.

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Present and Future

CDC Celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2006

Today, CDC is the nation′s premier health promotion, prevention, and preparedness agency and a global leader in public health.

It remains at the forefront of public health efforts to prevent and control infectious and chronic diseases, injuries, workplace hazards, disabilities, and environmental health threats.

CDC is globally recognized for conducting research and investigations and for its action-oriented approach. CDC applies research and findings to improve people′s daily lives and responds to health emergencies—something that distinguishes CDC from its peer agencies.

CDC works with states and other partners to provide a system of health surveillance to monitor and prevent disease outbreaks (including bioterrorism), implement disease prevention strategies, and maintain national health statistics. CDC also guards against international disease transmission, with personnel stationed in more than 25 foreign countries.

CDC is now focusing on becoming a more efficient and impactful agency by focusing on five strategic areas: supporting state and local health departments, improving global health, implementing measures to decrease leading causes of death, strengthening surveillance and epidemiology, and reforming health policies.