FOOTNOTES
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Public Affairs Update

  • Coalition launches petition to protect peer review . . . . The Coalition to Protect Research (CPR), a coalition of organizations committed to promoting public health through research, launched an online petition to provide scientists and health professionals concerned about threats to the integrity of the peer review process with a way to show their support for the National Institutes of Health and for scientific principles. The petition will be shared with members of Congress and their staff over the next few months. CPR represents scientists, physicians, health care providers, patients, and advocates that support federal investments in basic biomedical and behavioral research in human sexual development, sexual health, HIV/AIDS, and sexually transmitted diseases. In response to the introduction of the Toomey amendment [see September/October 2003 Footnotes, p. 2], several organizations within the behavioral and social science community, along with several women’s health organizations, formed CPR. The Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) took the lead to bring these communities together to work to educate policymakers about the public health relevance of research into sexual health and behaviors and the value of utilizing this research to make sound public health policy. Social scientists are encouraged to join fellow scientists and health care professionals in signing a petition supporting scientific principles. Share the petition with your representatives and senators in Congress to show them that you, their constituents, are paying attention to their votes on these issues and that the scientific peer-review process should be free from political interference. You can read and sign the petition at www.cossa.org/CPR/cprpetition.html.

  • Child poverty in rural America . . . . Sociologists William P. O’Hare, of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Kenneth M. Johnson, of Loyola University-Chicago, wrote a Population Reference Bureau (PRB) report that examines the welfare of children in rural America. The report explores the well-being of the 14 million children who live in rural America and examines the changing distribution of U.S. children, the impact of immigration on rural populations, rural child poverty rates by state, education and employment challenges in rural areas, differences in welfare benefits between urban and rural areas, and policy considerations. In recent decades, rural poverty has been overshadowed by the plight of impoverished families living in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods. Though little public attention has focused on the plight of the rural poor, statistics indicate that rural poverty is very serious. Of the 50 counties with the highest child poverty rates, 48 are located in rural America. A downloadable version of the report is available on PRB’s website www.prb.org. To order a print copy ($5), visit PRB’s online store or e-mail popref@prb.org.

  • Behavioral, social sciences should be part of medical training . . . . According to a new Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, medical education should be modified to help students fully recognize and respond to social and behavioral factors that affect the care and treatment of their patients. Commissioned by the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research, the report outlines core behavioral and social science content that should be included in medical training and recommends ways to overcome barriers to incorporating these disciplines in the four-year medical school curriculum. Improving Medical Education: Enhancing the Behavioral and Social Science Content of Medical School Curricula, Patricia A. Cuff, Neal Vanselow, Editors, Committee on Behavioral and Social Sciences in Medical School Curricula, can be found on The National Academy Press website at books.nap.edu/catalog/10956.html.

  • New head of Office for Human Research Protections . . . . On April 8, HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced the appointment of Bernard A. Schwetz, DVM, PhD, as the director of the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP). Schwetz had served as acting director of that office since February 2003 [see February 2003 Footnotes, p. 3]. OHRP leads the HHS’s efforts to ensure the protection of human subjects in research by monitoring programs at more than 10,000 HHS-funded universities, hospitals, and other medical and behavioral research institutions in the United States and abroad. As director, Schwetz said he would work to maximize the availability of the OHRP staff—and their extensive knowledge—to the research community. This will include an increased presence of OHRP personnel at institutions for activities such as quality improvement within the institutions’ human subject protection programs. In response to research community requests, Schwetz aims to work to provide more OHRP guidance on the interpretation of the HHS regulations. To enable a broader focus regarding human research protections, Schwetz will develop a public communications program to help assure that subjects in clinical trials have access to and knowledge about their rights as participants. He also will provide information to help educate the general public about opportunities for involvement in research. Schwetz has served as the senior advisor for science at the Food and Drug Administration and as a Distinguished Scientist at the University of Maryland-College Park.

  • New NIAAA director of epidemiology and prevention research . . . . National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Director Ting-Kai Li announced recently his appointment of Ralph W. Hingson, ScD, MPH, as Director of NIAAA’s Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research. Hingson comes to NIAAA from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH), where he has served since 2001 as Associate Dean for Research. From 1986 to 2000, Hingson served as Professor and Chair of the BUSPH Social and Behavioral Sciences Department. Hingson recently co-chaired the Panel on Prevention and Treatment of the NIAAA Task Force on College Drinking, and served on the NIAAA National Advisory Council. In his new position, Hingson will oversee NIAAA’s extramural portfolio of epidemiological and prevention research.