NIH “Pauses” Advancing Health Communication Science and Practice Program

Last month, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) quietly made the decision to “pause” a Common Fund program to advancing health communication science and practice. The NIH Council of Councils had approved the concept on September 8, 2022, with strong support from Council, NIH Institutes and Centers, and the scientific community. The intention was to develop, test, and share new approaches for effective and equitable health communication.

Prior to this decision, the NIH had made good progress on the concept having gathered input from a request for information in April 2022 and a workshop held in May 2022. Expert discussants included FABBS secretary Vivian Tseng, then with the William T. Grant Foundation. FABBS members have a depth of expertise to help inform these critically important goals and had provided input throughout the process.

According to NIH, it has decided to reconsider its scope and aims of the $154 million research program in the context of the current regulatory and legal landscape around communication platforms.

A JAMA editorial Health Communication Science in the Balance, by Dean Schillinger and Richard Baron criticized the decision: “The NIH’s unfortunate decision to halt the program, which took place in the face of mounting political pressures related to the study of misinformation, represents a serious threat to the integrity of science and to it successful translation.”

The decision to delay the Advancing Health Communication Science and Practice Program came just weeks before Senator Bernie Sanders agreed to move forward with a confirmation hearing for Dr. Monica Bertagnolli. FABBS will be working with colleagues on Capitol Hill to raise awareness about the value and importance of health communication science and encourage Dr. Bertagnolli, assuming she is confirmed, to restart this critical program.