DHHS LogoDEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Atlanta, GA 30333


CDC Celebrates 50 Years of Excellence in Public Health

The Centennial Olympic Games are not the only games in town this summer. As people from throughout the nation and the world flock to Atlanta for this summer event, they might not be aware that the city is also the birthplace of the nation’s prevention agency—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency celebrates its golden anniversary as a public health institution on July 1, and a host of activities to mark the event have been scheduled throughout the year.

CDC has plenty of reasons to celebrate. CDC evolved from the World War II agency, Malaria Control in War Areas (MCWA). Dr. Joseph Mountin, who directed the Bureau of State Services in 1941, wanted a national effort to keep military bases and essential war industry-related establishments in the southern United States malaria-free. Dr. Mountain encouraged the federal government to establish MCWA in 1942 and, eventually, to convert it to the Communicable Disease Center in 1946. From these beginnings, when the agency worked with state and local health officials to combat malaria, typhus, and other diseases, CDC has matured to become the nation’s prevention agency, working with others to prevent disease and injury. CDC’s partnerships with state and local health departments; educational institutions; philanthropic foundations; international groups; and professional, voluntary, and community-based organizations are crucial to the success of this endeavor.

Collaborative efforts have focused not only on preventing new and re-emerging infectious diseases, but on violence and injury prevention, environmental threats, workplace hazards, preventing chronic disease, and addressing issues related to promoting the health of women, children, and youth. In the past, CDC worked with its partners to prevent syphilis and eliminate smallpox and other communicable diseases. More recent efforts have been aimed not only at preventing a host of diseases, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, lead poisoning among children, and HIV/AIDS, but at promoting healthful behaviors, such as smoking cessation and the importance of obtaining prenatal care and immunizations, that profoundly affect the health and well being of the public.

CDC has teamed up with state and local health departments and other agencies and governments in conducting epidemiologic investigations of possible disease outbreaks; assessing people’s exposure to environmental toxicants, such as pesticides or chemical warfare agents; dealing with hazards in the workplace; and responding to domestic and international disasters. For example, in 1995, in the wake of devastating tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and famines, CDC collaborated with many groups and relief agencies in assessing the magnitude of these disasters on the public health.

CDC’s state-of-the art laboratories offer yet another reason to celebrate. CDC is one of only three institutions in the world to house a Level Four—or “hot zone”— laboratory. Here, scientists study viruses, such as Ebola and hantavirus, that cause diseases for which there are no known cures. These scientists describe their work as “drastically important, dangerous, slow, and demanding.” Scientists at other CDC laboratories working in concert with other agencies and institutions, are developing ways to measure people’s exposure to a variety of environmental toxicants, such as environmental tobacco smoke and pesticides, or are working to identify new disease-causing agents.

Visitors traveling the Information Superhighway for Olympic news can also visit CDC’s homepage at http://www.cdc.gov and obtain information about its programs and services. At the click of a button, people can learn about disease outbreaks, trends in public health, and a variety of other subjects. Connecting CDC to the world in this way not only speeds crucial information to the public health community, but offers others a fascinating entry into the world of CDC, a world that has been built on a solid foundation of scientific accomplishment, collaboration, and intense dedication to improving the public health.

As Dr. David Satcher, CDC’s Director, said recently, “during CDC’s first 50 years, the CDC family and our partners have contributed to powerful scientific discovery and momentous public health achievements in improving the health of the nation and the world. As we review our past accomplishments, we are proud. As we look forward to our exciting future, we are energized.” And when the Olympic events conclude and people return to their homes in other states and nations, CDC will continue its partnerships, working to improve the public health well into the next century.


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Created March 9, 1996