OBSSR Connector Monthly Newsletter
The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) Connector Monthly Newsletter is a monthly e-newsletter featuring updates from OBSSR Director William T. Riley, Ph.D., information about behavioral and social sciences in the news, events and announcements, findings from recently published research, funding announcements, and other updates. The current newsletter is provided below.
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March 11, 2021
NIH Launches UNITE Initiative to Address Structural Racism in Biomedical Research. On Monday (March 1), NIH launched the UNITE initiative to end structural racism and racial inequities in the health research enterprise. In his public statement announcing this initiative, Dr. Collins noted that while NIH has supported various programs to improve diversity of the scientific workforce, these efforts have been insufficient, and that the “NIH is committed to instituting new ways to support diversity, equity, and inclusion, and identifying and dismantling any policies and practices that may harm our workforce and our science.” The success of any such effort needs to begin with acknowledging our individual and collective roles, whether intentional or unintentional, in perpetuating the disadvantages resulting from structural racism in the research enterprise, and I share Dr. Collins’ sentiment that “I am truly sorry.”
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To address the growing opioid epidemic, policymakers have focused largely on controlling the prescription and use of opioid analgesics through the implementation of supply-side drug policies and harm-reduction policy measures. However, these policies have not yet been evaluated for their impact on indicators of prescription opioid abuse. In a study funded by the NIDA, scientists evaluated whether US state drug policies were associated with variation in opioid misuse, opioid use disorder, and drug overdose mortality.
In the U.S., insurance companies and government programs have absorbed the usual hospital costs patients would owe when treated for severe cases of COVID-19. Unfortunately, many of these waivers are temporary, and the associated future costs to patients are not known. Researchers supported by a grant from the NIDA assessed predictors of out-of-pocket costs for flu hospitalizations to estimate the potential costs for COVID-19 hospitalization and found that a permanent cost share waiver for hospitalizations may be a solution.
What is the relationship between severe psychosis and mass shootings (defined by three or more victims, excluding the shooter)? The authors of this study were funded by the NIMH and other funding organizations to examine the relationship between mental health disorders and mass shootings. Depending on the study and definition of mental illness used, there is high variability in the percentage of mass shootings associated with mental illness. If the link between severe psychosis and mass shootings is overstated, then possibly both stigma of mental illness and policies to mitigate the risk of mass shootings need to be redirected to more effective indicators.
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