Our History - Our Story
On July 1, 1946, the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) settled into the old offices of Malaria Control in War Areas (MCWA), located on the sixth floor of the Volunteer Building on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia, with a satellite campus in Chamblee, Georgia. Its primary mission was simple yet highly challenging: field investigation, training, and control of communicable diseases. Launched with a modest budget and fewer than 400 employees, most of whom were engineers and entomologists, the agency encouraged its staff to broaden their work within public health. In 1947, CDC made a token payment of $10 to Emory University for 15 acres of land on Clifton Road in Atlanta where CDC headquarters is located today. Field stations and laboratories were expanded and diversified, and employee training became an immediate task. The new institution would expand to include all communicable diseases, and would be the servant of the states, providing practical help whenever called.
Malaria Control in War Areas (MCWA), the predecessor to CDC, was established in 1942 to control malaria around military training bases in the United States. After World War II ended, Dr. Joseph W. Mountin of the U. S. Public Health Service’s Bureau of State Services envisioned an agency that could support state and local health units in investigating and controlling communicable disease outbreaks, and in maintaining the nation’s health through local measures. Building upon the work of the MCWA, the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) initially focused on fighting malaria, typhus and other infectious diseases. The agency was located in Atlanta, Georgia because the South was the area of the country with the most malaria transmission as well as the headquarters of MCWA. In the next 60 years, minor changes were made to the name (The National Communicable Disease Center, Center for Disease Control, Centers for Disease Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), but the initials, CDC, have remained the same.
Through the years, CDC’s work has expanded to include all infectious diseases, noncommunicable diseases, injury and environmental health, health statistics, and occupational health. Reporting today to the Department of Health and Human Services and working in collaboration with public health partners, CDC tirelessly leads the fight against known, new, and emerging diseases around the world. At the same time, CDC leads prevention efforts to reduce the burden of preventable and chronic diseases.
Present and Future
Today, CDC is known as the nation’s premiere health promotion, prevention, and preparedness agencies.
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 50 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.
- Page last reviewed: July 22, 2015
- Page last updated: July 22, 2015
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