December 16, 2021
Director's Voice Blog
Parting Thoughts on NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. I have been fortunate to serve the NIH’s behavioral and social sciences research mission for the past 17 years, and I have been privileged to serve as its Associate Director for Behavioral and Social Sciences Research and Director of OBSSR for the last seven years. As I prepare to step down as OBSSR Director, I thought I’d reflect on some successes (and non-successes) and the challenges ahead.
From my early years camping and hiking as a boy scout, I was taught to “leave a place better than you found it.” With the contributions of many of you, I feel comfortable that I am leaving the NIH behavioral and social sciences better than I found them. As I reflect on my time at NIH, I am reminded how often I have stumbled into amazing opportunities to work with exceptional scientists to advance the behavioral and social sciences at the NIH. I want to highlight a few of these opportunities because they illustrate some of the accomplishments of the behavioral and social sciences at the NIH and beyond and some of the challenges that lie ahead.
Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Spotlights
Recently published research supported by the NICHD took a closer look at the incidence of pregnancy-associated homicide in the U.S. Previous research using single cities, states, or other geographic subsets have shown that homicide is a leading cause of death during pregnancy and the postpartum period. However, maternal mortality estimates do not include homicide and other violent causes of death. In this current study, researchers analyzed the first 2 years of nationally available maternal mortality data and reported the national prevalence of pregnancy-associated homicide.
Social isolation is a risk factor for morbidity and mortality, but what are biological mechanisms underpinning this connection? In a study funded by the NIA, NIMHD, and the Secunda Family Foundation, researchers explored this question among older adults by combining social isolation information with two biological markers of inflammation that have been linked to a range of negative health outcomes.
Public health measures used to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 has created changes to many family routines. Nationwide mandates in the U.S. were used to reduce large gatherings of individuals through closure of businesses and the cancellation of social activities. Thus, many family centered activities such as schools, parks, and engagement of social support were significantly reduced which caused changes to daily family routines such as food and eating patterns, sleep quality, and work changes (at home-virtual). The COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted maternal and child nutrition by altering feeding behaviors in the family environment. Researchers funded by the NCATS, NHLBI, and NICHD investigated changes in food related parenting practices before and during COVID-19.
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