Division of Population Health At A Glance

Three generations of a family.

CDC’s Division of Population Health (DPH) provides scientific leadership and expertise to prevent costly chronic diseases and improve health across the life span. The division oversees crosscutting programs on topics such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and healthy aging, excessive alcohol use, epilepsy, and lupus. DPH supports populations in multiple settings, including schools, workplaces, and tribal communities. The Prevention Research Centers develop and test innovative programs and move ones that work into public health practice. DPH provides local, state, and national health data through programs such as the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and 500 Cities.

What We Do

With an FY 2019 operating budget of about $117 million, CDC’s Division of Population Health (DPH) directs and manages a broad portfolio of public health programs, services, and applied research activities focused on promoting population health and preventing chronic disease across the life span. To achieve its goals, DPH works to:

hand holding magnifying glass

Measure and report how chronic diseases and risk factors affect populations in the United States.

professionals with books

Study interventions and strategies to find out what works best to prevent and control chronic diseases.

US map

Fund and support states, cities, territories, tribes, schools, employers, and national public health partners to use population-based interventions that improve health.

news on monitor and social media

Share information to help all Americans understand the risk factors for chronic diseases and how to reduce them.

Why We Do It

Arthritis affects 54.4 million US adults and is a major cause of work disability in the United States. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, and 5.7 million US adults are living with Alzheimer’s dementia. Excessive alcohol use costs the nation $249 billion annually and is responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20 to 64 years. About 3.4 million Americans have epilepsy nationwide, including 470,000 children. Each day, 132,000 schools provide a setting for 57 million students to learn about health and healthy behaviors. American Indians and Alaska Natives experience many health disparities, and today have a life expectancy that is 4.4 years less than all US races.

arthritis pain in knees

54.4

MILLION

US adults have arthritis.
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5.7

MILLION

Americans are living
with Alzheimer’s
dementia.
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1 in 10

DEATHS

among working-age
adults are caused by
excessive alcohol use.
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3.4

MILLION

Americans have epilepsy.

How We Do It

DPH provides essential data; opportunities for innovative research; scientific expertise in disease areas, risk factors, and settings; and tools for program development and implementation. The division uses proven strategies to address current and evolving public health needs across the life span. DPH also works with local, state, territorial, and tribal organizations, as well as schools, universities, employers, and national partners to develop, implement, and improve effective programs. Major programs include the following:

Prevention Research Centers (PRCs)

The PRC Program is a network of 26 academic research centers in 24 states that study how people and their communities can avoid or counter risks of chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, and cancer. As leaders in translating research into policy and public health practice, PRCs work with communities to develop, evaluate, and put into action major changes that can prevent and control chronic diseases.

Healthy Tribes

Woman and infant.

CDC works with tribal organizations, urban Indian organizations, Tribal Epidemiological Centers, and tribal partners to promote health, prevent chronic disease, reduce health disparities, and strengthen connections to culture and community practices for improved health and wellness among American Indians and Alaska Natives. Programs include Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country, Tribal Practices for Wellness in Indian Country, and the Tribal Epidemiology Center Public Health Infrastructure.

Healthy Schools

CDC works with states, school systems, communities, and national partners to prevent chronic disease and promote the health and well-being of children and adolescents in schools. Establishing healthy behaviors during childhood is easier and more effective than trying to change unhealthy behaviors during adulthood. Schools play a critical role in helping children develop lifelong healthy habits.

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

BRFSS collects state data about health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services among US adults aged 18 or older. It collects data in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 3 US territories. BRFSS completes interviews with more than 400,000 US adults each year, making it the largest continuously conducted health survey system in the world.

Local Data

DPH improves access to local data through innovative collection and analysis efforts, including the 500 Cities Project, the Chronic Disease Indicators, and geographic information system (GIS) analysis and mapping. Understanding the local geographic context and its effect on health helps guide public health research and practice.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Healthy Aging Program

Grandfather playing with young girl.

CDC leads the nation’s public health efforts to promote health and quality of life for older Americans and help older adults with dementia remain active, independent, and involved in their community. DPH promotes awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias through the Healthy Brain Initiative, studies the societal and economic cost of dementias, supports data collection on cognitive decline and caregiving, and works to ensure that caregivers have the resources to provide quality care to people with dementia.

Alcohol Program

Excessive alcohol use, including underage drinking and binge drinking (drinking 5 or more drinks on an occasion for men or 4 or more drinks on an occasion for women), can lead to increased risk of health problems such as injuries, violence, liver diseases, and cancer. CDC is at the forefront of the nation’s efforts to prevent excessive alcohol use and related harms in states and communities and to strengthen the scientific foundation for preventing excessive alcohol use.

Arthritis Program

Woman in a swimming pool.

CDC works to protect the health of the 54.4 million men and women with arthritis in the United States. DPH conducts research and collects data to identify trends and how the disease affects quality of life for people with arthritis and other chronic conditions. CDC also funds state health departments to expand the reach of proven physical activity and self-management education programs and works with national partners to increase access to these programs and to promote walking.

Epilepsy Program

CDC works to improve the health and well-being of people with epilepsy through multiple strategies. DPH conducts research, collects and shares data, develops and funds effective programs, works with partners, and promotes awareness of epilepsy as a public health issue to motivate action.

Lupus Program

CDC supports research on lupus, an autoimmune disease that triggers inflammation in different tissues of the body. Lupus can be treated but not cured. DPH studies interventions to identify what works and conducts pilot programs to guide public health practice. The division also funds patient registries and long-term studies and works with partners to raise awareness, increase knowledge, and enhance the skills of health care providers who care for lupus patients.

Evolving Public Health Topics

DPH works to address evolving public health needs and conducts epidemiological activities to support these emerging areas, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, inflammatory bowel disease, interstitial cystitis, and insufficient sleep. DPH also provides leadership to improve the health, safety, and well-being of employees through science-based workplace health promotion programs.

See the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion infographic to find out more about the center’s work to prevent heart disease, stroke, and other chronic diseases.

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Page last reviewed: August 5, 2019