Amid all the talk of reduced funding, peer-review challenges and research needs, several speakers offered attendees hopeful stories of how science can inform policies and improve public health:
Jack Henningfield, PhD, whose two decades of evidence-based advocacy helped inform the Food and Drug Administration’s rules on limiting youth access to tobacco and regulating tobacco as a drug, used his keynote address to talk about the small steps that lead to larger victories. Henningfield was given a presidential citation by APA President Melba Vasquez, in recognition of his outstanding scientific contributions to reducing the toll of tobacco dependence and to enhancing tobacco control.
Richard Spoth, PhD, head of the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute at Iowa State University, discussed how he and other researchers provided input to the Office of National Drug Control Policy on evidence-based strategies for developing a national prevention system. “Most of the programs implemented on a dayto- day basis in our communities have not been evaluated,” he said. He and a task force of other researchers from the Society for Prevention Research worked to bring evidence-based prevention strategies — such as working with public schools and university extension services — into the new national drug control strategy.
Betty Tai, PhD, director of the Center for Clinical Trials Network at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, described how the center coordinates research among university researchers and community providers, to bring evidence-based substance abuse treatments to patients in community practice settings.
“Enormous amounts of knowledge are barreling down the information highway, but they are not arriving at the doorsteps of our patients,” Tai said, quoting Claude Lenfant, a former director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
CTN’s nationwide network of researchers — at 57 universities and more than 200 methadone centers, hospitals, rehab centers and other sites — are aiming to change that, Tai said. Since 1999, they’ve conducted 28 clinical trials with 14,000 patients, studying behavioral, medical and combined behavioral/medical interventions. CTN also makes all of its published studies and trial data available to researchers through a public website.
Initial research, Tai said, focuses on “benchto- bedside” questions, such as how the brain works and how certain treatments affect it. The CTN focuses on “bedside-to-practice” questions of how to safely and effectively deliver those treatments.
“We’re focusing on how to deliver effective and cost-effective treatment,” Tai said.