NIMH and NICHD Advisory Councils Meet, Discussing Their Respective Strategic Plans

June 13, 2019

NIH institute Advisory Councils advise the Secretary of Health and Human Services; the Director of National Institutes of Health; and the Directors of individual institutes, on all policies and activities relating to the conduct and support of relevant health research, research training, and other programs. Councils are comprised of topic experts approved by NIH leadership, who are often identified by the individual institutes.

The House Appropriations Committee included language in the NIH budget for fiscal year 2020 that might create additional opportunities for behavioral scientists to serve on NIH advisory committees:

“Advisory Committees.—The Committee is concerned that despite the legal requirement that all NIH advisory councils have at least two representatives from the fields of public health and the behavioral or social sciences, recent reviews of the membership of advisory councils reveal that not all of the Institutes and Centers are in compliance with this statute and requests a report on the fields of public health and behavioral and social sciences that are represented on each advisory committee.”

The National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) met on May 30. During the open session, Dr. Josh Gordon provided his Director’s report and attendees heard an update on the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) strategic planning process. Over the course of the meeting, the Director made several comments indicating that the draft of the strategic plan will likely include a strong focus on drug development. In addition to proposing a workgroup on drug development, the Director shared an analysis of NIMH-funded interventions concluding that ‘pharmacological’ intervention proposals were under-funded compared to ‘psychosocial’. Furthermore, the Director shared that when he travels the country, the comment that he hears most often is that NIMH is not doing enough to explore new drugs for mental illness. NIMH staff is currently developing an initial plan for Council review and after incorporating feedback intends to request community feedback on the draft plan in the fall or winter of this year. A videocast of the NAMHC open session can be found here.

For more information about the NIMH grant portfolio, see this article.

By way of reminder, NIMH has also invited input on Incorporating Development and Environment into the NIMH Research Domain Criteria. Comments are due by June 21. FABBS will be submitting comments on behalf of our societies and affiliates.

Their strategic plan was on the agenda when the NICHD AC met on June 11. FABBS submitted comments on the NICHD draft strategic plan earlier this year. Director Bianchi provided an update on the plan and shared a comprehensive summary of the 924 comments received. The Director’s comments suggested that based on the feedback that NICHD received, they are reworking the draft themes.

Also at the meeting, the Director revealed a new mission statement, which reads, “The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development leads research and training to understand human development, improve reproductive health, enhance the lives of children and adolescents, and optimize abilities for all.” The previous mission statement was 62 words long, none of which were ‘research.’

The NICHD also shared a new tagline: “Healthy Pregnancies, Healthy Children, Healthy and Optimal Lives.” Both the mission statement and the tagline will be formally released along with the final strategic plan in September 2019.