The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spent over $56 million on 135 conferences in one year, ranging from Head Start meetings to diversity seminars.
According to the agency’s report on conferences for fiscal year 2012, HHS spent an average of $415,784 per event.
Four conferences were devoted to the Head Start program, including the "1st National Birth to Five Leadership Institute," a three-day conference held at the Washington Hilton for $836,521. The conference taught participants how to become Head Start leaders.
A "Head Start Research Conference" held at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C., cost $1,130,000.
HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement hosted a $350,000 conference at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Va., entitled, "Transforming Hope into a Brighter Future."
"The purpose of this meeting was to consult with various stakeholder groups to support vulnerable populations in becoming self-sufficient in the United States," a description of the event said.
Two conferences were held on "health care in rural America" in Washington, D.C. within two months, for a total of $319,467.
Another event focused on how to "diversify the nursing workforce," at a cost of $151,200. The "Nursing 3D: Workforce Diversity, Health Disparities, Social Determinants of Health" event was held at the North Bethesda Marriott in Maryland.
"The purpose of the summit was to convene experts, thought leaders, and key workforce diversity stakeholders to identify the full range of academic and health system factors, as well as the social, economic, and environmental determinants that influence our ability to diversify the nursing workforce," HHS said.
Another event sought to increase diversity in National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) training programs. Sixty people attended the $175,000 meeting.
The NIAID division also held a workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa, costing $200,000. A summit on alcohol abuse was held in Sapporo, Japan, for $168,725.
The annual International AIDS Conference cost over $9.3 million in 2012. "It provided a chance to assess where we are, evaluate recent scientific developments and lessons learnt, and collectively chart a course forward," HHS said
HHS also held the "Voice Awards" at Paramount studios in Los, Angeles to honor those in Hollywood who promote the "social inclusion" of people with behavioral health problems. The event sought to change how television and film audiences "understand mental health and substance use disorders," and cost $313,212.
In all, 135 conferences were held between Oct. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2012, costing taxpayers a total of $56,130,877.
The total surpasses what the IRS spent on conferences between 2010 and 2012. The agency was highly scrutinized earlier this year for spending $50 million on lavish conferences, which included funding for a "Star Trek" parody training video.