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The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provides leadership in the administration of health care programs and initiatives. Its mission is to improve the physical and social wellbeing of American citizens. To achieve this mission, the federal agency operates eleven divisions that oversee many health care programs. It works collaboratively with different state and private partners to promote innovation and health information sharing. This paper analyzes the historical events, mission, and objectives of the DHSS, its core functions, and recent events related to personnel management. The rationale for choosing DHHS for this analysis is to examine workforce diversity management in a large federal institution.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is a federal agency that administers “health and welfare programs” nationally (2015b, para. 7). One of its main operating divisions is the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that supports biomedical research to advance human health services. Several key events characterize the history of DHHS since it was hived off the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1980. In the same year, the federal government began disbursing funds through the DHHS to support “foster care and child adoption” services in all states (DHHS, 2015a, para. 3). The year 1985 saw the DHHS license an HIV screening test. The enactment of the McKinney Act and the launch of the childcare support program in 1989 promoted health care for children and homeless persons.
In 1990, the DHHS launched the Human Genome Project and oversaw the enactment of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act and the CARE Act to support people living with HIV. The agency rolled out its Vaccine for Children Program in 1993 and SCHIP in 1997 to provide insurance cover for children. In 2003, the DHSS established the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care financing nationally. In 2010, it oversaw the enactment of the Affordable Care Act became that provide comprehensive health care coverage to all Americans.
The mission of the DHHS is to promote the “health and wellbeing of all Americans” through programs that support efficient human services, health, and social welfare (DHHS, 2015b, para. 2). The agency has four strategic goals. Its first goal is to strengthen health care by extending coverage, improving patient safety, reducing health care costs, and making health care accessible to underserved populations. The second goal is to promote scientific research and innovation while the third one is to enhance the health and physical well-being of all Americans (DHHS, 2015b). Its fourth goal is to advance integrity and accountability in the delivery of health care programs.
The DHHS offers many services and programs through its eleven departments. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) division offers educational programs aimed at supporting the socio-economic well-being of communities, children, and families (DHHS, 2015b). The agency also offers community support resources for seniors and the disabled through its Administration for Community Living (ACL) division. Advocacy initiatives that seek to increase the social representation of the aged and the disabled fall under this division. The DHHS also promotes research aimed at improving health care quality, accessibility, cost-effectiveness, and patient safety. It carries out this function through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is a DHHS division that protects people from the health effects of toxic substances and environmental hazards. It undertakes public health actions nationally to protect people from toxic exposures. The DHHS, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spearheads the “prevention and control of diseases” in the country (2015b, para. 6). The division also provides responsive actions to health emergencies globally.
The DHHS also oversees federal health insurance funding programs, including the Medicare and Medicaid services, the Health Insurance Marketplace, and the SCHIP program (DHSS, 2015b). The agency’s other key function is promoting the safety of food products and drugs through the Food and Drug Administration. It also promotes health care access to vulnerable populations and the uninsured.
Through the Indian Health Service, the DHHS provides health care services that meet the specific needs of the Native populations. The agency also supports clinical research both locally and globally through the National Institutes of Health to advance medical knowledge. The SAMHSA is a division of the DHHS that offers supportive programs to people with mental illnesses and addiction disorders within communities.
On July 1 this year, the DHHS launched online training resources for multiple chronic conditions to promote interprofessional education among health care professionals. The aim of the program is to provide tools and resources for the training of an inter-professional workforce that will care for patients with multiple chronic conditions (MCC).
This program has implications for public personnel hiring and training. It will require employees with diverse cultural and professional backgrounds to accomplish the goals of the MCC program. Diversity management in the workplace requires an environment that empowers a diverse workforce through training and involvement in decision-making. The involvement of a diverse workforce in policy-making fosters political representation and ensures quality decisions.
The agency also set up a National Ebola Training and Education Center in June to “identify, isolate, transport, and treat” Ebola patients (DHHS, 2015c, para. 5). The center is a joint effort involving different DHHS offices, the CDC, and educational institutions. Its mission is to train health care professionals in Ebola management methods. The principles of public personnel management will help the agency tap into the clinical expertise of the different institutions to improve the level of preparedness in hospitals. It will also require proper management of staffing resources to enable the center to manage Ebola outbreaks safely.
In March this year, the DHHS launched a digital educational project called the positive spin to educate people on the importance of encouraging HIV-infected individuals to seek treatment. It brings together diverse organizations and health care workers and targets gay black men living with HIV. Designing program activities that accommodate the needs of this population will require the recruitment and training of a diverse workforce that includes gay black men. The project managers will need to show commitment towards inclusivity to improve the outcomes of the outreach activities.
Recently, the DHHS released an interoperable IT infrastructure for electronic health information sharing. The aim of the system is to make health care information accessible to health care professionals to enhance care delivery. The agency defines a three-year roadmap that will bring together public and private sector players in “defining standards, motivating their use, and establishing the rules of engagement” (DHHS, 2015c, para. 8). This collaboration will require a framework on how the diverse workforce will work together to achieve the objectives laid down in the three-year roadmap. Additionally, managing the project team will require managers who are culturally competent to manage diversity.
The rationale for Selecting the Agency
The rationale for selecting the DHHS for the analysis in this paper is to understand personnel management issues related to the coordination in this principal federal agency. The DHHS collaborates with many private agencies that provide essential human services. The collaborations entail the training and development of personnel, including doctors and scientists, to work in its different programs. Additionally, the agency consists of several operating divisions with different mandates. Its divisions, such as the FDA, HRSA, and NIH, often collaborate in clinical research to improve the health of vulnerable groups (DHHS, 2012). Therefore, the first reason for selecting this agency is to analyze diversity management in the institution. The training and management of the diverse workforce working on joint projects would require organizational structures that promote diversity.
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The agency’s divisions, such as the FDA, also collaborate with external research institutions and companies involved in the development of protocols and safety standards for drugs and medical procedures (DHHS, 2012). Clinical studies, data collection, and product approval entail collaborations between researchers working in different institutions. Thus, the analysis of the agency’s management practices will give insights into the strategies it uses to promote productivity and achieve inclusiveness.
A second reason for choosing the DHSS is to examine decision-making processes in the agency. The agency’s policies, particularly the Affordable Care Act, have ramifications for health care delivery and health outcomes across the country. The DHSS brings together people with different expertise, educational backgrounds, life experiences, and lifestyles to develop solutions and interventions for various diseases and health conditions. It fosters a seamless inter-professional collaboration, which facilitates rational decision-making to advance its goals.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS]. (2012). Health Care Cost Containment and Medical Innovation. Web.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS]. (2015a). HHS Historical Highlights. Web.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS]. (2015b). Programs & Services. Web.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS]. (2015c). News Releases, Speeches & Testimonies. Web.