Also in this Issue

Science Staff Meets with President-Elect’s NSF Transition Team; Friends of NIAAA Meet at APA HQ and Psychologists Join Advisory Council; Studying the Psychology of Terrorism; Disaster Mental Health Recommendations Released; FDA Considers Quality/Usefulness of Information Supplied to Consumers; Thousands Attend NIH Summit on Eliminating Health Disparities

Science Staff Meets with President-Elect’s NSF Transition Team

President-Elect Obama has tasked his transition team with reviewing each of the federal agencies to get a jump start before the new Administration gets officially underway in January. At stake are the FY2009 and FY2010 budgets, as well as potential economic stimulus package options – all of which Congress and the new executive branch team will need to hash out in the early months of 2009.

A panel of four comprised the transition review team looking at the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) programs, and Science GRO staff requested a meeting with the team at the conclusion of their official review mid-December. APA’s Steve Breckler (Executive Director for Science) and Heather Kelly (Science GRO) headed out to NSF on December 15 to meet with team co-chairman Henry Rivera and team member Michelle McMurray. Although the President-Elect has asked review teams not to share their short-term conclusions about agencies, APA used the opportunity to stress the importance of supporting NSF’s primary mission of supporting basic research and education in math, engineering and science, including the behavioral and social sciences. We urged the new Administration to honor the present executive and legislative branches’ increased commitment to NSF’s overall research budget, and to ensure that this includes strong support for the behavioral and social sciences in order to address national challenges through a better understanding of human behavior.

Friends of NIAAA Meet at APA HQ and Psychologists Join Advisory Council

The Friends of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) met at APA headquarters on December 15 to organize activities for the next Congress and the new Administration. Tom Donaldson, President of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS), volunteered to coordinate the compilation of the coalition’s written testimony for the Labor Health and Human Services Subcommittees of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations.

APA staffers Geoff Mumford and Anne Bettesworth will be coordinating the third Friends of NIAAA educational briefing on Capitol Hill, the focus of which will likely be alcohol use and pregnancy. The briefing will be scheduled for April to coincide with Alcohol Awareness Month.

In a follow-up note, last February APA submitted nominations for openings on the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and we’re pleased to report that three psychologists, APA Fellow Dr. Linda Spear, APA Member Dr. Andrew Heath and Dr. Edward Riley have been added to the advisory council and will begin their terms of service at the February meeting. They will join APA Fellow Dr. Peter Monti, whose term of service ends in 2009, and follow APA Fellow Dr. Ken Sher, whose term just ended. The full roster and links to Council agendas and minutes is available here.

Studying the Psychology of Terrorism

On December 15, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence based at the University of Maryland, launched the Terrorism Studies Syllabi Repository. The repository currently contains 154 undergraduate, 56 graduate, and 1 K-12 syllabi relevant to the study of terrorism and responses to terrorism. Of those, a search on “psychology” returned 15 undergraduate and 4 graduate syllabi. The Web interface for the repository allows visitors to search by instructor name, course level, discipline, or one of 36 discrete keywords. Each syllabus is available for download in PDF format.

Requests to have a syllabus included in the repository should be e-mailed.

Disaster Mental Health Recommendations Released

On November 18, the Disaster Mental Health Subcommittee of the National Biodefense Science Board released a report detailing its recommendations to mitigate the mental and behavioral health consequences of disasters. The report was commissioned in response to Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21, which called for the establishment of an advisory body to provide recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services for “protecting, preserving, and restoring individual and community mental health in catastrophic health event settings, including pre-event, intra-event, and post-event education, messaging, and interventions.”

APA responded to a call for nominations to the working group in April 2008 and half of the invited experts were, in fact, APA members. The strategies identified by the Subcommittee cut across three main content areas: applying appropriate interventions; educating and training service providers; and enhancing and targeting communications and messaging. The report provides background on each of these areas followed by eight specific recommendations, the second of which is to enhance the research agenda for disaster mental and behavioral health. The full report is available at the HHS website.

FDA Considers Quality/Usefulness of Information Supplied to Consumers

On December 16, the Food and Drug Administration released a report indicating that consumer medical information (CMI) failed to meet the minimum criteria for usefulness that had been mandated by congress in 1996.

A press release accompanying the report stated, “CMI has been defined as being useful if it includes scientifically accurate, unbiased information that is presented in an understandable and legible format. Specifically, CMI should include the drug name and uses, how to monitor for improvement in the condition being treated, contraindications (situations when the medicine should not be used), symptoms of serious or frequent adverse reactions and what to do, and certain general information, including statements encouraging patients to talk to their health care professional.”

CMI will be the focus of a February meeting of the FDA Risk Communication Advisory Committee (RCAC), chaired by APA Fellow Baruch Fischhoff. Asked to comment about the role of the RCAC following the release of the report, Fischhoff said "I am grateful that the Congress and FDA have created the Risk Communication Advisory Committee, as a vehicle for helping to ensure that the public receives scientifically sound communications regarding the risks and benefits of the many products that FDA regulates. Because of the budgetary and regulatory limits on its ability to conduct research on its own, FDA places great value on the research conducted by the basic research community. FDA is fortunate to have, on staff, psychologists and other social scientists, who can identify and apply the best available science.”

SPIN readers interested in keeping up with RCAC activities should visit its website. Across the three meetings held in 2008, the committee reviewed: the basics of FDA's regulatory framework and ongoing communication activities with a focus on food recalls; direct-to-consumer advertising targeting various populations; and the quality of research used to communicate risk/benefit information.

Thousands Attend NIH Summit on Eliminating Health Disparities

The NIH Summit: The Science of Eliminating Health Disparities brought together current and former leaders in research and public health to help educate scientists and community members alike about the progress NIH and communities have made since Congress established the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities in 2000. John Ruffin was joined by former NIH Directors Harold Varmus and Bernadine Healey, as well as former HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan, former Surgeon General David Satcher and the Acting Director of NIH, Raynard Kington, in recognizing the challenge of making the elimination of health disparities a priority across NIH.

Nearly 4,000 participants were registered for the conference, and Maya Angelou challenged the participants to look at the issue from the positive perspective of achieving health equity for all, rather than focus on disparities, which has a negative connotation.  Psychologists from NIH and across the country joined nearly 300 other presenters at the summit to share their research and experiences, including current BSA member Vickie Mays from the UCLA School of Public Health and APA members James Jackson, Director of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan and Brian Smedley, Vice President and Director of the Health Policy Institute at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.