Collection and Dissemination of Information

Timely and reliable data are an essential component of public health assessment, policy development, and assurance at all levels of government. DHHS, particularly the PHS agencies, sponsors a variety of public health and health care data systems and activities. These include national vital and health statistics, household surveys on health and nutrition, health care delivery cost and utilization information, and reporting requirements for programs funded by federal grants or assistance. The National Center for Health Statistics within CDC is the primary agency collecting and reporting health information for the federal government. CMS collects administrative data on the Medicare and Medicaid programs and conducts beneficiary surveys. The Administration for Children and Families and the Administration on Aging also collect data on human services. Other agencies (e.g., the Census Bureau, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Labor) also collect data that are important for public health purposes. In addition, the collection and dissemination of research findings can be considered part of this activity.

7 Federal agencies have developed numerous regulatory techniques and decision-making processes to identify and respond to health and safety risks (Gostin, 2000). Agencies can control entry into a field by requiring a license or permit to undertake specified activities; set health and safety standards, conduct inspections to ensure compliance, adjudicate violations, and impose penalties; abate nuisances that threaten the public; dispense grants, subsidies, or other incentives; and influence conduct through a wide variety of informal methods (Gostin, 2000). For example, the Department of Agriculture regulates the safety of meat, poultry, and eggs. EPA regulates air and water pollution, pesticides, and toxic wastes. The Department of Energy oversees radiation-related environmental management, environmental safety and health, and civilian radioactive waste management. The Department of Labor regulates occupational health and safety and self-insured employee benefit plans. The Department of Transportation sets and monitors standards for highway safety. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in the Department of the Treasury, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration also issue regulations that protect the public against health risks (Boufford and Lee, 2001).

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