FOOTNOTES
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Public Affairs Update

  • NIH funds eight Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities . . . Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson announced in September the creation of eight new centers designed to support cutting-edge research to understand and reduce differences in health outcomes, access and care. Four institutes or offices within the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Cancer Institute, National Institute on Aging, and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research—will support this transdisciplinary research to examine how the social and physical environment, behavioral factors, and biologic pathways interact to determine health and disease in populations. For the whole story, visit cancer.gov/newscenter/pressreleases/NewDisparityCenters.

  • Strategies to reduce underage drinking . . . . A broad plan to reduce underage drinking was recently unveiled by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The report, requested by Congress, enlists the help of lawmakers, alcohol manufacturers, retail businesses, the entertainment industry, and parents. It recommends that federal and state lawmakers raise excise taxes on alcohol, particularly on beer, the most popular alcoholic beverage among young people. With alcohol being much cheaper today, after adjusting for inflation, than it was 30 to 40 years ago, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report notes that raising the price of alcohol will deter underage drinkers. The text of the report, Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility, is available on the web at books.nap.edu/books/0309089352/html/index.html.

  • . . . . On a related note, a Harvard University study confirms strong link between low-priced promotions and heavier drinking among students in the first national, on-site bar and liquor store survey. The Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study (CAS), released in September, documents, through systematic on-site observations, the extent to which college students are targeted with sales of large volumes of alcohol (such as 24- and 30-can cases of beer, kegs, and “party balls”), low sale prices, and frequent alcohol promotions at bars, liquor stores, and other retail outlets surrounding college campuses. The study found a strong association between the presence of these promotions and higher rates of heavy drinking on college campuses. The study appears in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine along with a second study that found that drinking and driving were less prevalent on campuses in states that had more comprehensive laws and stronger enforcement capacity to restrict drinking and driving, underage drinking, and high-volume consumption and sales of alcohol. The study’s Principal Investigator was sociology professor Henry Wechsler, Director of College Alcohol Studies at the Harvard School of Public Health (see also December 2002 Footnotes, pg. 5). These studies and additional information on the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study can be found at www.hsph.harvard.edu/cas.

  • American Community Survey (ACS) updates . . . . The American Community Survey is a relatively new approach employed by the U.S. Census Bureau for collecting accurate, timely information for critical government functions. This approach provides up-to-date profiles of America’s communities every year and is intended to replace the decennial long-form census. The ACS gives community leaders and other data users more timely information for planning and evaluating public programs geared to everyone from newborns to the elderly. There are two recent developments with regard to the ACS plans and activities. First, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the President’s budget request to provide full funding for the ACS for full implementation beginning in July 2004. If the Senate concurs, the American Community Survey will become fully operational, sampling 250,000 households per month, or 3 million per year, in 2004. Second, ACS’s organizational structure has been realigned, moving it from the Demographics Directorate and placing it under the Associate Director of the Decennial Census. A CD-ROM containing the 2000-2001 ACS data is available to the public free of charge by calling the U.S. Census Bureau at 301-763-4636. Also in September, the Census Bureau released ACS data from the 2002 Supplementary Survey. Finally, data from the 31 test sites consisting of three complete years of data (1999-2001) was released. For more information, see www.census.gov/acs/www/.

  • Senate appropriations create funding difficulties for agencies that support research and statistics . . . . The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the Census Bureau, and the State Department’s Educational and Cultural Affairs exchange programs were denied requested increases by the Senate Appropriations panel this fall. The NIJ was provided with $50 million in base funding, $6.3 million less than the President’s request for the agency. Because their current projects add up to more than $50 million there are no funds left for social and behavioral science projects. The BJS received $25 million for FY 2004 as recommended by the Senate panel, but this is $10.8 million below the requested amount and $7.1 million below last year. The Census received the same amount as last year ($551 million). This is $111 million less than the House approved amount. The Educational and Cultural Affairs exchange programs received a boost in funding from last year, but $90 million below the House’s appropriation.


    At a recent Capitol Hill reception, ASA Executive Officer Sally T. Hillsman (center) conversed with the new National Institutes of Health directors (left to right): Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse; Ting-Kai Li, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; Hillsman; Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health; and Norman Anderson, CEO of the American Psychological Association. ASA co-sponsored the reception to welcome the new institute directors (see www.asanet.org/public/nihdirectors.html).