NIH director expresses support for science of behavior change

Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health

In his June 15 testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, outlined the five areas of "exceptional opportunity" that he would like NIH to capitalize on in the coming years, including translating basic science into treatments and encouraging a greater NIH focus on global health. The hearing was well attended by both parties and Collins received several questions about NIH’s priority setting process and whether NIH considers the economic burden of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or obesity, in its funding decisions. In response, Collins explained that the burden of disease is considered during the two level peer review process, which remains the gold standard in determining how NIH funds research. However, peer review also ensures that decisions are based primarily on the scientific excellence of proposals and the program needs of the institutes, which includes input from public members as well as the greater scientific community. He also reiterated that making these funding decisions "is a very complex calculus and it should be, but I do think it is best made by people who have a sense of the entire landscape."  In response to a question from Rep. Donna Christensen (D-VI) about whether NIH would be increasing its support for behavioral research, Collins stated, "Much of what we are learning won't do any good if it is not transmitted to people in a way that they understand and if it doesn't motivate health behavior changes whether it is diet or exercise or other activities... how do we learn more about what actually is involved when somebody changes their health behavior, how do we inspire that in circumstances where we have the evidence but we haven't been very good at actually getting the result. You are going to see a lot more of that." 

View the written testimony.