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Public Health Service

Agency For Health Care Policy And Research, Agency For Toxic Substances And Disease Registry (atsdr)Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Indian Health Service

The Public Health Service (PHS) is the operating division of the HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENT (HHS) responsible for promoting the protection and advancement of the American population's physical and mental well-being.

A scientist examines the West Nile virus at a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lab in Fort Collins, Colorado. The CDC is the federal government's chief instrument for responding to public health emergencies; it also develops programs to prevent and control the spread of disease.

The Public Health Service was first established by Act of July 16, 1798 (ch. 77, 1 Stat. 605), which authorized the creation of hospitals to care for U.S. merchant seamen. Subsequent legislation has substantially broadened the scope of its activities, and as of 2003 the Public Health Service accomplishes its goals through a number of agencies and programs. These entities coordinate and implement national health policy on the state and local levels, conduct medical and biomedical research, and enforce laws to ensure the safety of drugs and medical devices and to protect the public against impure foods and cosmetics. There are several sub PHS agencies or Operating Divisions, as follows.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

AHRQ supports research designed to improve the outcomes and quality of HEALTH-CARE, reduce its costs, address patient safety and medical errors, and broaden access to effective services. The research sponsored, conducted, and disseminated by AHRQ provides information that helps people make better decisions about healthcare.

Indian Health Service

The health status of American Indians and Alaska Natives is the concern of the Indian Health Service, which is the principal federal healthcare advocate for these groups. The Indian Health Service administers a comprehensive healthcare delivery system for these groups, developing and managing programs to meet their health needs. The service also helps Native American tribes obtain and use healthcare through other federal, state, and local programs.


Kraut, Alan M. 2003. Goldberger's War: The Life and Work of a Public Health Crusader. New York: Hill and Wang.

Mullan, Fitzhugh. 1989. Plagues and Politics: The History of the United States Public Health Service. New York: Basic.

U.S. Government Manual Website. Available online at <www.gpoaccess.gov/gmanual> (accessed November 10, 2003).

SAMHSA works to improve the quality of and availability of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitative services in order to reduce illness, disability, and death, and cost to society resulting from substance abuse and mental illnesses.

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