FABBS Provides Feedback on Pandemic Preparedness Bill

February 8, 2022

In January, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and Ranking Member, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) released a discussion draft of the Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act (PREVENT Pandemics Act). FABBS was grateful for the opportunity to provide feedback on this bipartisan legislation, and share insights from the behavioral and brain sciences. (Read FABBS Comments

Notably, the bill includes measures focused on health disparities, access to mental health treatment, and the social determinants of health, all key considerations for an effective and equitable response to COVID-19 and future infectious diseases.  

One especially important provision would create an advisory commission for public health communication, requiring the inclusion of a psychologist. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed an urgent need to foster better public health and science communication. Thankfully, the brain and behavioral sciences offer strong evidence to inform best practices. The presence of a behavioral scientist at the table during these discussions will be an important step toward more effective public health communication.  

The authors also incorporated efforts to support and better coordinate medical research on preventives, treatments, and cures for future pandemics. FABBS encouraged the committee to expand these proposals to included behavioral considerations. Before vaccines became available, our country relied almost exclusively on behavioral and social mitigation efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, such as physical distancing and mask wearing. Efforts to better prepare for the next pandemic should include research on the effectiveness of behavioral strategies, best practices to motivate and maintain desired behaviors, and communication strategies to encourage their uptake across the U.S. population. Additionally, behavioral research can ensure that medical innovations are used and distributed to the greatest effect possible. 

Behavioral factors are essential to any pandemic response. Since the emergence of COVID-19, FABBS has consistently weighed in on a wide range of federal activities to address the pandemic, including engaging with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and sharing input for the pandemic preparedness plan under development at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. We will continue to work with Congress on this and any future legislation, and with the Administration and federal agencies, to ensure that federal pandemic preparedness policy reflects insights from behavioral and brain sciences.