November 22, 2022
Director's Voice Blog
NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival: Celebrating Advances in Science. On December 8 and 9 (1:00-4:30 p.m. EST), OBSSR and the NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Coordinating Committee will host the seventh annual NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival. This annual event provides a venue for the NIH Institutes and Centers to highlight exciting research results, emerging research areas, and innovations in the behavioral and social sciences. We hope you will save the date on your calendar and register here for this virtual event.
We have an excellent line-up of speakers this year. On December 8, we are pleased to launch the festival with a “fireside chat” featuring Alix Spiegel, the well-known public radio producer and science journalist. She will share her experience and insights on the state of science of communication and how to communicate scientific findings more effectively.
Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Spotlights
Telehealth lifestyle intervention reduces blood pressure, with dietitian support leading to greater improvements in secondary cardiometabolic outcomes
In the U.S., hypertension (high blood pressure) is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality and affects over 120 million adults aged 20 years of age and older. Unhealthy dietary patterns, high sodium intake, low physical activity, and obesity all contribute to the development of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Interventions that help individuals lower their blood pressure (BP) is challenging in clinical practice, often due to a lack of time and resources. Telehealth interventions that use mobile applications and online programs could be helpful by providing patients with insights about their own data and have the potential to reach patients living in rural areas.
Recently published research supported by NIDDK and others, examined the impact of two different telehealth strategies (minimal remote nonclinical staff support versus remote dietitian support with motivational interviewing) that leveraged online programs and mobile applications to promote healthy behavior change on 12-week changes in 24-hour systolic BP and other measures of healthy lifestyle.
Family caregiving can be characterized as providing unpaid care and assistance for a family member or friend’s health, behavioral, and social needs. Around 21% of COVID-19 hospitalized patients required an intensive care unit (ICU) stay for respiratory and cardiovascular complications at the height of the pandemic and necessitated caregiver assistance from family upon discharge. While there was an increase in the amount of family caregivers, there is scarce information about the post-hospitalization family caregiving experience and strategies to best support those transitioning into a caregiving role. Recently published research supported by the NIA, NINR, VA, and others may be one of the first studies to use dyadic (discharged COVID-19 ICU patients and their family caregivers) qualitative data to investigate the adaptive needs of families following an infective condition and ICU discharge. Study results could lead to improved family health outcomes and support needs as well as points of interventions for clinicians.
Changing state policy contexts are associated with increasing mortality rates among working-age adults in the U.S. ages 25-64 over the past two decades
Working-age mortality rates among adults in the United States (U.S.) ages 25-64 has increased over the past several decades, resulting in overall stagnation of U.S. life expectancy. Prior research has shown that several factors contributed to rising mortality rates, including noncommunicable diseases (particularly cardiovascular disease), unintentional injuries (e.g., alcohol-induced causes or drug poisonings), and intentional injuries (e.g., suicide). More recent work has shown that increases in U.S. mortality rates are also associated with macro-level influences, including social, political, and cultural factors. Political and policy shifts may have marked impacts on health and well-being, particularly at the state level where policy may determine such factors as education, economic stability, encouragement/discouragement of risky behaviors (e.g., tobacco taxes), access to health care, or employment protections and benefits. To date, the role of U.S. state policy contexts on the changing mortality rates of working-age adults has not yet been addressed. Recently published research supported by NIA has built on past work to investigate how state policy contexts in the past two decades are associated with working-age mortality rates overall among adults 25-64 years of age, and attributable to cardiovascular disease, alcohol-induced causes, suicide, and drug poisoning.
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Recently Published Funding Announcements
The NIH has been an instrumental leader in shaping and supporting behavioral and social sciences research (BSSR) to improve the nation’s health. Integrated with advances in other scientific disciplines, BSSR has made substantial contributions to the prevention or treatment of numerous physical health and mental health conditions.
In collaboration with subject matter experts from Institutes, Centers, and Offices across NIH, OBSSR has summarized some of the important scientific advances that demonstrate the valuable contribution of BSSR across various health conditions and behaviors. These summaries are provided as fact sheets (PowerPoint slides forthcoming) that highlight a significant public health problem and the corresponding BSSR-informed approaches used to address the problem. Various audiences such as academic researchers, public health organizations, and other health federal agencies, may find these materials useful to demonstrate to their stakeholders the importance of BSSR to the health of the United States population.
These new BSSR accomplishment resources are available on the OBSSR website:
Managing Chronic Pain
Preventing and Treating Diabetes
Preventing Intimate Partner Violence
Reducing Teen Pregnancy
Reducing Tobacco Use
Treating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Additional BSSR accomplishments will be added to the website in 2022.