The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the major operating components of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to collaborate to create the expertise, information, and tools that people and communities need to protect their health — through health promotion, prevention of disease, injury and disability, and preparedness for new health threats.
The CDC carries out its duties primarily by interacting with state and local health providers. The CDC has more than 100 health-surveillance programs nationwide, most of which track specific diseases or trends in clusters of diseases, such as food-borne illnesses and hospital infections. It is developing a larger network-based system to monitor and communicate information about outbreaks of disease, including biological attacks. The CDC’s National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS) is an initiative to create information-system and data standards for integrated and interoperable surveillance systems at federal, state, and local levels. Many state and local health agencies use different data formats or even depend on paper and fax machines, complicating any effort to develop a national health-monitoring system. As the NEDSS progresses, its purpose will be to improve the ability to identify and track emerging infectious diseases and potential bioterrorism attacks. The NEDSS will put local and state public-health, clinical, and laboratory data into a larger national monitoring network.