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Decade of Behavior Launched on Capitol Hill

The Decade of Behavior celebrated its official launch with an exhibit and reception in the Cannon House Office Building on March 25, 2000. Several hundred guests from Capitol Hill, Federal agencies, and professional and scientific organizations came to toast the event and to hear remarks by Rep. David Price (D-NC), and Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), co-chair of the newly formed Congressional Health and Behavior Caucus. At the evening reception, Rep. Price,who holds a PhD in political science, also read a Presidential letter of support commending the Decade initiative and its goals.

Bernice Pescosolido, Department of Sociology at Indiana University, was one of the featured scientists at the launch—with an exhibit on “The Role of Human Connections in Health: Social Networks and the Use of Treatment Systems.” This exhibit was one of 13 research demonstrations organized around five major themes: A Healthier Nation, A Safer Nation, A Better Educated Nation, A More Prosperous Nation, and a More Democratic Nation.

The Decade of Behavior is an initiative encompassing about 50 societies representing the behavioral and social sciences, including the American Sociological Association. The Association committed itself to this initiative with official endorsement by ASA Council in August 1998 as the idea was just taking form. The official launch of the Decade of Behavior comes after a substantial development period where key activities and emphases were defined through a series of working papers.

At the end of the 20th century, the numbers of Americans facing challenges that could be prevented or mitigated through behavioral change is enormous. The goal of the Decade of Behavior initiative is to focus insights from the social and behavioral sciences and highlight how research on behavior can be brought to bear on meeting society’s most significant challenges—for example, for ensuring and improving education and health and access to health care; ensuring safety in homes and communities; curbing drug use and abuse, poverty, racism, cynicism toward institutions of government, crime, and high risk behaviors; and actively addressing an aging population.

Troy Duster, Chancellors’ Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for the Study of Social Change, University of California at Berkeley; and Professor of Sociology, New York University is a member of the National Advisory Committee which guides the Decade of Behavior. The National Advisory Committee consists of 16 distinguished scientists drawn from the social and behavioral science disciplines. The Decade of Behavior has been a fully collaborative effort across all fields of the social and behavioral sciences, but Richard McCarty, the Executive Director of the Science Directorate of the American Psychological Association (APA) has been the engine behind this initiative. His leadership and that of the APA Science Directorate over past two years have effectively brought the initiative to fruition. Other events are also planned for the Decade of Behavior initiative, including a prime time public television series, public outreach and education in collaboration with behavioral and social science departments in colleges and universities, a distinguished lecture series at national professional meetings, and topical seminars for policy makers in Washington DC.