|A Role for Public and Scientists
in NIEHS Research Plan
A new leader at the National Institute of Environmental
Health Sciences (NIEHS) says members of the public,
including all scientists, should help direct the future
of research on how the environment influences human
health, according to a notice posted in the Federal
Register. The NIEHS, an environmental health research
arm of the National Institutes of Health, set up a website
for responses to six questions critical for defining
a new strategic plan.
Within a week of assuming his new role as the Director
of NIEHS, Dr. David A. Schwartz announced plans to involve
researchers and the community in a strategic planning
process. NIEHS will use information obtained to determine
the most effective ways to study environmental toxins
and human health.
“Almost every complex disease, from diabetes, to obesity
and heart disease, to many cancers, is, in part, caused
by exposures from the environment,” said Dr. Schwartz. “NIEHS
is uniquely poised to improve the health of this nation.
We are not limited by any one organ, system or disease — we
can use the breadth of our knowledge on environmental
exposures to understand and intervene in the disease
process. We can use science to reduce morbidity, extend
longevity and improve an individual’s quality of life.”
The strategy is expected to focus on four elements:
basic research, human health and disease, global environmental
health, and training.
“Having these four areas serve as our backbone will
allow us to strategically focus on funding the best
science that will have the greatest impact on human
health,” said Dr. Schwartz. “Having a transparent, inclusive
and candid process will allow us to work together to
identify new opportunities, establish research priorities,
determine the best ways to translate our findings to
the field and the public.”
To officially kick off the strategic planning process,
the Institute posted a notice in the Federal Register
today. “This will ensure that not only researchers,
but members of the public, and those from other disciplines
who may not be as familiar with NIEHS, are aware of
the priority setting process, and are provided with
an opportunity to provide input,” Dr. Schwartz said.
A new user friendly page has been developed on the
NIEHS website (www.niehs.nih.gov/external/plan2006/home.htm)
to allow easy access to individuals who would like to
provide input via the Internet. Initially, the Institute
is especially interested in responses to six critical
- What are the disease processes and public health
concerns that are relevant to environmental health
- How can environmental health sciences be used to
understand how biological systems work, why some individuals
are more susceptible to disease, or why individuals
with the same disease may have very different clinical
- What are the major opportunities and challenges
in global environmental health?
- What are the environmental exposures that need
- What are the critical needs for training the next
generation of scientists in environmental health?
- What technology and infrastructural changes are
needed to fundamentally advance environmental health
Responses to these questions will be compiled and
will be used by a Strategic Planning Group, which will
include members of the NIEHS Advisory Council, to develop
a brief document outlining the Institute’s goals over
the next five years. The NIEHS is also soliciting nominations
for the planning group. A draft document is expected
to be available for public comment this fall.
The full text of the notice can be found in today's
edition of the Federal Register, http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-12129.htm.
NIEHS, a component of the National Institutes of Health,
supports research to understand the effects of the environment
on human health.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) The
Nation's Medical Research Agency is comprised
of 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of
the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It is the primary Federal agency for conducting and
supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical
research, and investigates the causes, treatments,
and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more
information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.