Tag Archives: behavioral research

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Can we put a dent in the costly toll of suicide?

Dear Research Advocate: 
 
The loss of American Icon Robin Williams has riveted national attention on suicide, one of the 10 most common causes of death in the United States. Today, we are releasing our updated fact sheet on suicide that you can use when meeting with lawmakers and educating others about the impact research can have. Efforts to prevent suicide rightly draw on research findings. But progress has been painfully slow, stymied by serious gaps – partly due to severely limited funding – in the basic research base that precedes private sector development, and stymied by the equivalent of handcuffs placed on social science research.

The notion promulgated by some in the Congress that social sciences research doesn’t add enough value to merit federal funding is not just unfounded, it’s holding us back. Social sciences research saves lives. Case in point: behavioral research guided the development of a suicide intervention that was pilot tested in schools in Georgia and Connecticut and resulted in a 40% reduction in attempted suicides. It has since been implemented in schools across the country. This is just one example of social sciences research at work.

Research moves faster when patient advocates engage. This is the history of the nation’s commitment to defeating polio, to ramping up HIV/AIDS research, to prioritizing breast cancer research and women’s health research overall. Writing in the New Yorker last month, Seth Mnookin described the impact that “dedicated … well-informed families” can have in pushing progress. In his responsive letter to the editor, Peter L. Saltonstall, CEO of the National Organization for Rare Disorders, focused on the use of social media by patient groups to establish global registries, taking full advantage of abilities we didn’t have just a few years ago, and in so doing, saving lives. But there is another message here. The research community must work more closely with patient advocates in order to drive medical innovation. As one of the researchers in the Mnookin article said, “Gone are the days when we could just say, ‘We’re a cloistered community of researchers, and we alone know how to do this.’” Continue reading →

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Member spotlight: the Association for Psychological Science

By Alan G. Kraut, Executive Director of the Association for Psychological Science

Kraut_Alan_APSIn the minds of many people, there is a separation between biomedical research and behavioral research. But that separation is artificial. Behavior is at the core of many health problems. Six out of 10 of the leading causes of premature death, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, are linked in part to genetic influences but also to controllable behaviors like physical inactivity, poor diet and smoking.

Our 25,000 members are scientists and educators at the nation’s universities and colleges, conducting federally funded basic and applied, theoretical, and clinical research.  They look at such things as the connections between emotion, stress, and biology and the impact of stress on health; they look at ways to manage debilitating chronic conditions such as diabetes and arthritis as well as depression and other mental disorders; they look at how genes and the environment influence behavioral traits such as aggression and anxiety; and they address the behavioral aspects of smoking and drug and alcohol abuse.

Just as there exists a layered understanding, from basic to applied, of how molecules affect brain cancer, there is a similar spectrum for behavioral research.  Continue reading →