The mission of the OBSSR is to:
- Enhance the impact of health-related behavioral and social sciences research
- Coordinate behavioral and social sciences research conducted or supported by the NIH and integrate these sciences within the larger NIH research enterprise
- Communicate health-related behavioral and social sciences research findings to various stakeholders within and outside the federal government
By the early 1980s, it was clear that behavioral and social factors not only play a major role in health and illness, but also interact with biological factors to influence health outcomes. Progress in behavioral and social sciences research during the 1970s and 1980s increased our knowledge base and underscored the need for this area of study. The growing appreciation of the importance of behavioral and social factors in health and disease has been furthered by several discouraging population trends, including high rates of obesity, especially among children; relatively high infant mortality rates in the U.S.; rising rates of family homelessness; and persistent health disparities among segments of the population. In addition, many chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer have become much more common. Behavioral and social factors play a central role not only in the development of these diseases and others, but also in their prevention and treatment.
In response to the need for health-related behavioral and social sciences research, Congress established the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1993. The NIH already had a long history of supporting health-related behavioral and social sciences research, and the results of this work have contributed significantly to our understanding of the basic underlying mechanisms and treatment of mental and physical health and illness. Establishing an office focused specifically on the behavioral and social contributions to mental and physical well-being enables the NIH to leverage existing efforts and develop synergy across multiple Institutes, Centers, and scientific disciplines.
Former Directors of the Office
Robert Kaplan, Ph.D., 2011-2014
David Abrams, Ph.D., 2005-2008
Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D., 2000-2003
Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D., 1995-2000