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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the U.S. government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.

HHS is responsible for almost a quarter of all federal outlays and administers more grant dollars than all other federal agencies combined.  The Department manages programs that cover a vast spectrum of activities that impact health, public health, and human services outcomes throughout the life span.  HHS, through its programs and partnerships:

  • Provides health care coverage to more than 100 million people through Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Health Insurance Marketplace;
  • Promotes patient safety and health care quality in health care settings and by health care providers, by assuring the safety, effectiveness, quality, and security of foods, drugs, vaccines, and medical devices;
  • Eliminates disparities in health, as well as health care access and quality, and protects vulnerable individuals and communities from poor health, public health, and human services outcomes;
  • Conducts health, public health, and social science research with the largest source of funding for medical research in the world, while creating hundreds of thousands of high-quality jobs for scientists in universities and research institutions in every state across America and around the globe;
  • Leverages health information technology to improve the quality of care and use HHS data to drive innovative solutions to health, public health, and human services challenges;
  • Improves maternal and infant health; promotes the safety, well-being, and healthy development of children and youth; and supports young people’s successful transition to adulthood;
  • Promotes economic and social well-being for individuals, families, and communities, including seniors and individuals with disabilities;
  • Supports wellness efforts across the life span, from protecting mental health, to preventing risky behaviors such as tobacco use and substance abuse, to promoting better nutrition and physical activity;
  • Prevents and manages the impacts of infectious diseases and chronic diseases and conditions, including the top causes of disease, disability, and death;
  • Prepares Americans for, protects Americans from, and provides comprehensive responses to health, safety, and security threats, both foreign and domestic, whether natural or man-made; and
  • Serves as responsible stewards of the public’s investments.

The HHS Strategic Plan FY 2014-2018 includes strategic goals and associated objectives, strategies, and performance goals that focus on these and other major functions of the Department.


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Mission Statement

The mission of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is to enhance the health and well-being of Americans by providing for effective health and human services and by fostering sound, sustained advances in the sciences underlying medicine, public health, and social services.


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Organizational Structure

HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving Americans at every stage of life.  Eleven operating divisions, including eight agencies in the U.S. Public Health Service and three human services agencies, administer HHS’s programs.  In addition, staff divisions provide leadership, direction, and policy management guidance to the Department.

Appendix A includes the organizational chart for the Department.  Appendix B presents the mission statements and primary functions of all of the Department’s operating and staff divisions.


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Cross-Agency Collaborations and Public-Private Partnerships

Through its programming and other activities, HHS works closely with state, local, and U.S. territorial governments.  The federal government has a unique legal and political government-to-government relationship with tribal governments and a special obligation to provide services for American Indians and Alaska Natives based on these individuals’ relationship to tribal governments.  HHS works with tribal governments, urban Indian organizations, and other tribal organizations to facilitate greater consultation and coordination between states and tribes on health and human services issues.

HHS also has strong partnerships with the private sector and nongovernmental organizations.  The Department partners with the private sector, such as regulated industries, academic institutions, trade organizations, and advocacy groups.  The Department leverages resources from these organizations to enable HHS to accomplish its mission through strategies that minimize the burden on, and increase the benefits to, the American public.  This effort occurs through faith-based and neighborhood partnerships as well as grantees in the private sector, such as academic institutions and community-based nonprofit organizations, which provide many services at the local level.  HHS collaborates with other federal departments and international partners to ensure the maximum impact for the public.

The narrative and strategies under each strategic goal and objective describe how the Department collaborates with governmental and nongovernmental groups.


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Strategic Plan Development

Every four years, HHS updates its Strategic Plan, which describes its work to address complex, multifaceted, and evolving health and human services issues.  An agency strategic plan is one of three main elements required by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993 (P.L. 103-62) and the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-352).  An agency strategic plan defines its mission, goals, and the means by which it will measure its progress in addressing specific national problems over a four-year period.

Each of the Department’s operating and staff divisions contributed to the development of the Strategic Plan, as reflected in the Plan’s strategic goals, objectives, strategies, and performance goals.  A workgroup of liaisons from the Department’s operating and staff divisions developed the narrative, strategies, and performance goals for the Plan.  The workgroup ensured that the Plan aligns with the Department’s annual GPRA reporting in Congressional Budget Justifications and the Summary of Performance and Financial Information, which together fulfill HHS’s annual GPRA performance reporting requirements.  This Plan also aligns strategic goals and objectives with priorities of the Administration, the Department, and HHS divisions.


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Stakeholder Engagement

Under the GPRA Modernization Act, federal agencies are required to consult with Congress and to solicit and consider the views of external parties.  To comply with this mandate, HHS engaged the public through the HHS Open Government website (http://www.hhs.gov/open), a Notice of Availability in the Federal Register, conference calls with tribal leaders, email notices to external stakeholders and HHS.gov subscribers, and social media postings.  The public could review the draft on the HHS Open Government website or could request an electronic or paper copy.  The public was able to submit comments via mail, fax, email, and the HHS Open Government website.  HHS also sought input from Congress and the Office of Management and Budget.

More than 400 comments from the public were received during the six-week public comment period.  Input ranged from editorial suggestions to more substantive comments, roughly equally divided among all of the strategic goals and objectives of the draft Plan.  In response, HHS coordinated with agencies to incorporate responsive changes into the final Plan.


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Strategic Goals, Objectives, and Strategies

The HHS Strategic Plan FY 2014-2018 describes the Department’s efforts within the context of four broad strategic goals:

  • Strategic Goal 1:  Strengthen Health Care
  • Strategic Goal 2:  Advance Scientific Knowledge and Innovation
  • Strategic Goal 3:  Advance the Health, Safety, and Well-Being of the American People
  • Strategic Goal 4:  Ensure Efficiency, Transparency, Accountability, and Effectiveness of HHS Programs

The strategic goals and associated objectives focus on the major functions of HHS.  Primary strategies for accomplishing HHS’s goals are presented within each objective.  Although the strategic goals and objectives presented in the Plan are separate sections, they are interrelated, and successful achievement of one strategic goal or objective can influence the success of others.  For example, the application of a promising new scientific discovery (Strategic Goal 2) can affect the quality of health care patients receive (Strategic Goal 1) or the success of human services programs (Strategic Goal 3). Improving economic well-being and other social determinants of health (Strategic Goal 3) can improve health outcomes (Strategic Goal 1).  Responsible management and stewardship of federal resources (Strategic Goal 4) can create efficiencies the Department can leverage to advance its health, public health, research, and human services goals.  Multiple agencies within HHS often contribute to successful achievement of a strategic goal or objective; agencies that make these contributions to strategic goals and objectives are listed within the appropriate sections of the Plan.


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Performance Tracking

Performance Goals.  The GPRA Modernization Act and related guidance from the Office of Management and Budget requires the inclusion of performance goals for each strategic objective in the Strategic Plan.  In developing and selecting performance goals, HHS included broad health and human services impact measures as well as more intermediate processes and outputs that have contributed to the achievement of long-term outcomes.  HHS personnel regularly monitor more than a thousand performance measures to examine effectiveness and improve program processes.  This Strategic Plan includes at the end of each strategic objective a representative set of important performance goals that track progress for those objectives.  Progress on these performance goals will be tracked annually through the Annual Performance Report Site disclaimer icon.

Agency Priority Goals.  Among the performance measures monitored by the Department are several measures that support the Department’s Priority Goals.  These goals are a set of ambitious but realistic performance objectives that the Department will work on to achieve within a 24-month period.  Agency Priority Goals support and align with the Strategic Goals and Objectives of the HHS Strategic Plan.  The GPRA Modernization Act requires the inclusion of these Federal Goals in the Department’s Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan. Agency Priority Goals for FY 2014-2015 can be found at http://www.Performance.gov.

Cross-Agency Priority Goals.  The GPRA Modernization Act requires that the Department address Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals in its quadrennial Strategic Plan, the Annual Performance Plan, and the Annual Performance Report.  The Department’s contributions to, and progress on, CAP Goals is available at http://www.Performance.gov.


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Contributing Programs for Strategic Objectives

The GPRA Modernization Act requires a central inventory of all federal programs.  The federal Program Inventory has the potential to facilitate coordination across programs.  This document makes it easier to find programs that can contribute to a shared goal, as well as improve public understanding about what federal programs do and how programs link to budget, performance, and other information.

The HHS Program Inventory describes each of the 115 programs that HHS administers across its 11 operating divisions, as well as how the program supports the Department’s broader strategic goals and objectives.

In developing the program inventory, HHS worked to closely align the list to the Department’s budget structure and Treasury accounts.  This approach is consistent with how the Department operates and serves the American people and generally reflects the way Congress appropriates funding to HHS.  In some cases, the Department aggregated or disaggregated existing structures with the goal of developing a program inventory that resonates with the American public and external partners and closely reflects agency operations.


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Evaluation and Research Investments

As part of the HHS mission to provide health and human services to the nation, the Department is committed to continuously improving on the delivery of those services.  That goal is accomplished through the evaluation of HHS programs to examine the performance of those programs in achieving their intended objectives.  An important component of the HHS evaluation function is communicating the findings and recommendations of completed evaluation studies.  The Department produces a Performance Improvement Report, available at http://aspe.hhs.gov/evaluation/performance, to make available to its stakeholders and the public summaries of evaluation studies recently completed and others in progress.  The Department organizes evaluations by the strategic goals and objectives of the most current HHS Strategic Plan.

Throughout this Plan, narrative sections under strategic goals and objectives describe how evaluations contributed to the strategic directions the Department has chosen to improve health and human services outcomes for the populations it serves.  In addition, strategies related to conducting research and evaluations, and applying that knowledge to programs and other efforts, are included throughout the Plan.


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External Risk Factors

The GPRA Modernization Act also requires that agencies identify “key factors external to the agency and beyond its control that could significantly affect the achievement of the strategic goals.”  HHS agencies and offices have identified a number of economic, demographic, social, and environmental risk factors; these factors are included in the narratives at the beginning of each goal chapter.  These risks include shifts in demographics in the general population and in the health, public health, and human services workforce; the new global regulatory environment; increased and changing demand for services; and challenging fiscal conditions at the state and local levels.


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Content created by Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE)
Content last reviewed on March 10, 2014