In Brief

The Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research (OBSSR) commissioned the report to evaluate the role of behavioral and social science research in the context of the NIH's mission and research priorities.

Specifically, the report, New Horizons in Health: An Integrative Approach, identifies 10 areas that would benefit from additional focus and more integrated research strategies, using multiple levels of analysis:

  • Predisease pathways. Identifying early and long-term biological and psychological precursors to disease.

  • Positive health. Identifying factors that contribute to resilience, disease resistance and wellness.

  • Environmentally induced gene expression. Understanding gene expression and its relationship to health outcomes.

  • Personal ties. Exploring the social mechanisms and interactions that influence health.

  • Healthy communities. Identifying collective properties of social and physical environments that influence health.

  • Interventions. Developing more effective interventions.

  • Methodological priorities. Developing new study techniques that link information across all levels of analysis.

  • Research infrastructure. Maintaining long-term study populations and training scientists to integrate disciplines.

  • Population perspectives. Evaluating macro-level trends and the health-care system.

  • The inequality on health outcomes. Clarifying how socioeconomic disparities affect health.

The NRC's wider, long-term implications call for reforming undergraduate and graduate education to train a "new brand of health-care professionals."

The report is a high-level call for health research that focuses on the multiple determinants of health and illness, which include individual health behaviors, social and environmental influences, and interactions among all these with genetic and physical factors.

"We in the Public Policy Office hope this report provides new reasons for the Congress and the media to focus on the importance of behavioral and social sciences research," says Pat Kobor, APA director of science and policy.

The report, New Horizons in Health: An Integrative Approach, is available online from the National Academy Press: www.nap.edu/books/0309072964/html/.

--R. BALLIE