I am delighted to introduce David M. Murray, Ph.D., Associate Director for Prevention and Director, Office of Disease Prevention. Dr. Murray oversees the lead office at NIH responsible for assessing, facilitating, and stimulating research on disease prevention and health promotion, and disseminating the results of this research to improve public health.
Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Guest Director’s Letter: Advancing Prevention Research at the NIH
Prevention has been an important part of the NIH's mission since 1798, when NIH began as the Marine Hospital Service established to screen crew members and passengers arriving in the U.S. to prevent epidemics of yellow fever and cholera. Prevention stands today as one of three primary targets in the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan for 2016-20, along with research in fundamental science and on treatments and cures.
The Office of Disease Prevention (ODP), located in the NIH Office of the Director, is charged with improving the public health by increasing the scope, quality, dissemination, and impact of prevention research supported by the NIH. The ODP provides leadership for the development, coordination, and implementation of prevention research in collaboration with the NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) and with other federal and non-federal partners.
The NIAMS and the ODP are partners in a variety of activities. Together, we are planning a new Pathways to Prevention workshop on osteoporotic fracture prevention, to be held in 2018 in collaboration with the National Institute on Aging. This workshop will convene an independent panel of investigators to hear presentations from scientific experts, to consider the results of an extensive evidence review, and to develop recommendations for research related to osteoporotic fracture prevention. In addition, NIAMS staff are serving on three new Scientific Interest Groups (SIGs) organized last year by the ODP that are focused on adult screening, the genetics of prevention, and interventions to prevent or delay onset of co-morbid conditions. These SIGs are working to identify underdeveloped research issues in these areas and to develop plans for meetings, concept papers, and potential funding opportunity announcements.
The NIAMS actively participates in the ODP’s survey of NIH ICs on their current and planned activities related to insufficient evidence, or I statements, issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. This survey helps the NIH ICs identify research gaps that are consistent with their missions. The ODP is also examining awards funded by the NIAMS beginning in 2010 as part of its ongoing analysis of the NIH prevention research portfolio, and expects to begin publishing papers based on this work in 2018. The NIAMS is actively involved with the Prevention Research Coordinating Committee, which is administered by the ODP and serves as a channel for exchanging prevention-related information within and beyond the NIH to plan and implement collaborative activities.
One of the newest resources from the ODP that will be helpful to NIAMS investigators is the Research Methods Resources website, developed to support new NIH policies related to clinical trials. This site provides information for investigators who are considering a study that will assign groups of participants or animals to study conditions, rather than assigning them individually. It also provides materials for investigators who are considering a study that will deliver one or more interventions to groups, rather than delivering them individually. Such studies face special design, analytic, and sample size issues that differ from traditional designs for observational studies or clinical trials. If ignored, these issues can lead investigators to think that their findings are real, when in fact they are a result of poor design or analysis, and the study’s results may mislead both investigators and policymakers. This new site includes a sample size calculator to help investigators plan new studies that may employ these design features.
The ODP is currently developing its strategic plan for FY 2019–23. The plan will embody the Office’s intent to continue to create better tools to characterize the NIH prevention research portfolio, identify prevention research areas that warrant additional investment or expanded effort, promote the use of the best available methods in prevention research, promote collaborative prevention research projects, and increase the visibility of prevention research at the NIH and across the country. NIAMS staff participated in the ODP’s strategic planning focus groups and provided valuable insight in the early stages of the plan’s evolution. ODP leadership and staff are now meeting with Institute and Center Councils, Directors, and program staff to ask for their input as the new plan is generated, and will then seek public feedback to further inform the development of the plan.
As part of this effort, I will meet with the NIAMS Advisory Council in February, 2018. I hope not only to share more information about the ODP’s current activities, but also to hear the Council’s insights on how the ODP can help the NIAMS, and to bolster our cooperative relationship for the future.
David M. Murray, Ph.D.
Associate Director for Prevention and
Director, Office of Disease Prevention
National Institutes of Health