The United States Secretary of Health and Human Services is the head of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, concerned with health matters. The Secretary is a member of the President's Cabinet. The office was formerly Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.
In 1979, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was renamed the Department of Health and Human Services, and its education functions transferred to the new Department of Education. Patricia Roberts Harris headed the department before and after it was renamed.
Nominations to the office of Secretary of HHS are referred to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid, before confirmation is considered by the full United States Senate.
Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius was sworn in as Secretary of Health and Human Services by the United States Senate on April 29, 2009.
The duties of the secretary revolve around human conditions and concerns in the United States. This includes advising the President on matters of health, welfare, and income security programs. It strives to administer the department of Health and Human Services to carry out approved programs and make the public aware of the objectives of the department.
After the attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks, the position has held a unique significance in the War on Terrorism. Upon his departure, then-Secretary Tommy Thompson remarked "I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do..." Scholars concur, arguing that an attack on food (particularly milk) could affect approximately 100,000 people.
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