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Director's Messages

2014 Annual Review

As we enter the new fiscal year, I am pleased to report on the progress we have made related to the Office of Disease Prevention's (ODP) first Strategic Plan. This plan, which was approved by the NIH Director in January 2014, includes six strategic priorities that will guide the work of our office through 2018. Below is an update on the progress of each strategic priority, as well as information about ongoing projects within the Tobacco Regulatory Science Program.

Strategic Priority I: Systematically monitor NIH investments in prevention research and assess the progress and results of that research.

We have developed a taxonomy of prevention research, in partnership with the NIH Prevention Research Coordinating Committee (PRCC). The taxonomy will help us characterize the NIH prevention research portfolio according to topic area, study design, population studied, and other variables. We also established a team-based approach to coding grant abstracts, complete with a training program, protocol, and coding form. We anticipate coding several thousand abstracts over the next two years. The results will be shared with the NIH Office of Portfolio Analysis, which will use the data to develop automated tools based on machine learning. These automated tools can then analyze new abstracts, based on the taxonomy. These tools will allow us to better monitor NIH investments in prevention research and assess the progress and results of that research.

Strategic Priority II: Identify prevention research areas for investment or expanded effort by the NIH.

We have strengthened the connection between the NIH and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) to identify and address gaps in prevention research. The USPSTF, which provides evidence-based recommendations for preventive health care services, has become increasingly important with the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Over the last year, we have identified a USPSTF liaison and content experts at each Institute and Center (IC) and have begun an annual survey to determine what research ICs are supporting related to evidence gaps identified by the USPSTF. We are also working with IC staff to ensure that the USPSTF has the necessary NIH input to develop its recommendations. In addition to partnering with the USPSTF, we are helping to fund an effort at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to make it easier to identify research gaps in reports from the Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF).

Strategic Priority III: Promote the use of the best available methods in prevention research and support the development of better methods.

We are working with the NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR) to identify appropriate methodological experts to invite to serve on study sections that review prevention research applications. We have collaborated with the Society for Prevention Research and with the Association of Schools and Programs in Public Health to document the methods and content expertise of their members. Using those data, we are building a web-based tool to allow scientific review officers at the CSR and ICs to easily identify experts who might participate in the review process. We are also seeking Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval to post the methods and content survey on our website, so that other groups can provide similar data, thus enabling us to build a robust and up-to-date database of methods and content experts.

Sponsoring the Robert S. Gordon, Jr. Lecture in Epidemiology is also part of ODP's work to advance Strategic Priority III. In December, we will honor the 2015 keynote speaker, Dr. Shiriki Kumanyika, for her research on the role of nutritional factors in the primary and secondary prevention of chronic diseases, with a particular focus on obesity, sodium reduction, and related health problems such as hypertension and diabetes. Her most widely-cited work relates to the epidemiology and management of obesity among black Americans.

Strategic Priority IV: Promote collaborative prevention research projects and facilitate coordination of such projects across the NIH and with other public and private entities.

Following up on our Physical Activity and Disease Prevention Workshop, we have released two Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) for multilevel interventions to encourage physical activity. The first seeks applications for Research Program Grants (R01s) to implement, test, and evaluate scalable interventions. The second seeks applications for Exploratory/Developmental Phased Innovation Grants (R21s) to provide time to develop meaningful collaborations, or to pilot or refine interventions or evaluation methods, prior to submitting an R01 application. In addition, we are in the process of hiring a new senior staff member to promote collaborative prevention research projects and facilitate coordination of such projects across the NIH and with other public and private entities.

Strategic Priority V: Identify and promote the use of evidence-based interventions and promote the conduct of implementation and dissemination research in prevention.

In an effort to expand ODP's network of resources, we are surveying federal agencies to identify evidence-based prevention programs. This information will be used to populate a new section of the ODP website that will allow visitors to search for evidence-based prevention programs based on the characteristics of their target population.

We are also supporting the 7th Annual Conference on the Science of Dissemination and Implementation, which aims to grow the research base by bridging the gap between evidence, practice, and policy in health and medicine. In addition to providing support for the conference, ODP staff serve on the planning committee and will present at the event.

Strategic Priority VI: Increase the visibility of prevention research at the NIH and across the country.

We are developing a new section of our website to provide resources for investigators interested in developing an NIH application for prevention research. This section will be designed with new and junior investigators in mind. These investigators often do not have experienced collaborators or mentors who can assist them in starting a prevention research program. These web pages will include detailed information about which NIH study sections and IC offices are involved with prevention research applications. Additionally, we will be expanding the Research Highlights section on our website to draw attention to the broad spectrum of prevention research at the NIH. Please watch for new webpages in the near future.

The Tobacco Regulatory Science Program

The Tobacco Regulatory Science Program (TRSP) coordinates the trans-NIH effort with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products to conduct research to support the FDA's regulatory authority over tobacco products. The TRSP is now funding a wide array of projects under a variety of mechanisms. Earlier this fall, an FOA for administrative supplements on the role and impact of flavors in cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco was released; applications will be reviewed later this year.

We will continue to update the ODP website regularly with new information highlighting our activities about ongoing prevention research at the NIH and across the federal government. We also encourage you to stay connected by signing up for our mailing list and by joining our more than 10,000 followers on Twitter.

David M. Murray, Ph.D.
Associate Director for Prevention
Director of the Office of Disease Prevention

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