News Release

Thursday, June 15, 2006

NIH Celebrates a Decade of Discovery in Behavioral and Social Sciences Research

Bethesda, Maryland — The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) celebrates a decade of progress and promise in the behavioral and social sciences on June 21-22. The two-day event features more than 30 presentations highlighting cutting-edge research, the impact of these advances in understanding health and disease, and historical contributions to the field.

“In a rapidly changing landscape, this is a critical time for the behavioral and social sciences at NIH,” said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. “Changing individual and collective patterns of behavior and creating environments that promote health and prevent disease are key to solving some of the nation’s and the world’s challenges to promoting optimal health.”

The event will take attendees on a journey from cells to society, showing how behavioral and social sciences contribute to health promotion and disease prevention. Speakers will discuss innovative interventions to change diet, physical activity, smoking behavior, and showcase the move from causes to cures — how basic research is translated into interventions in addictions, child abuse and neglect, HIV/AIDS, and stress reduction.

“Behavioral and social science stands at a crossroads, bridging biology and the environment, linking basic and applied science, and informing national policy,” said OBSSR Director David Abrams, Ph.D. “Critical challenges face our national health agenda, including aging baby boomers, chronic diseases, and health disparities. About 70 percent of our health outcomes involve behavior at individual, group, and societal levels. Investments in socio-behavioral research have already paid off and can yield enormous future benefits, not only in economic terms but also in preventing death and suffering.”

OBSSR’s draft strategic prospectus for future priorities in NIH’s behavioral and social sciences research will also be presented for comment in a town-hall meeting. The plan serves as a guide to meet new challenges threatening the health of individuals and populations across the nation.

Advances in behavioral, social, and population sciences have helped to save the lives of millions of Americans. Research in these disciplines has helped reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS; improve memory in the elderly; and has led to effective treatments for many diseases and disorders, including autism, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, diabetes, and chronic pain.

“The more we learn about behavior and the environment, to complement our knowledge of genes and biology, the more we will have the tools to predict, personalize, and preempt disease,” said Dr. Abrams.

This event is supported by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health through gifts from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the American Psychological Association and the Decade of Behavior Initiative, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and other professional associations that support the behavioral and social sciences.

For more information, visit

The Office of the Director is responsible for setting policy for NIH. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices, which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout the agency, including the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR). OBSSR was created in recognition of the key role that behavioral and social factors often play in illness and health. Additional information is available at

The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health was established by the United States Congress to support the mission of the NIH. The foundation identifies and develops opportunities for innovative public-private partnerships involving industry, academia, and the philanthropic community. A non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation, the Foundation raises private-sector funds for a broad portfolio of unique programs that complement and enhance NIH priorities and activities. For more information, visit

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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