Forums and Roundtables: The Power of Convening

The fundamental work of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) is not simply the creation of documents and reports. It is the act of bringing people together to share and advance knowledge. While creation of a common ground can occur through formal committees with specific reporting objectives and mandated areas of study, it often takes place through forums, roundtables, and symposia, all of which provide opportunities for serendipitous discovery and critical, cross-disciplinary thinking.


Symposia are most often held as part of the dissemination activities for an IOM report on a narrowly defined topic. A series of symposia on the subject of childhood obesity, for example, has served to bring the subject and the IOM’s report to the attention of regional media markets and stak›olders.


In contrast, forums and roundtables, the IOM’s convening activities, offer a different approach to the exploration of issues in science and public policy than traditional consensus studies. They draw together diverse parties who have shared interests in the health sciences in a neutral setting.


Forums and roundtables bring together a community of stak›olders interested in a broad area of health policy for a long-term, evidence-based dialogue. Members of forums or roundtables include individuals from the relevant scientific and practice communities; leaders from government, academia, and industry; and representatives of consumer and public interest groups.


The purpose of these gatherings is to illuminate issues through discussion and debate across sectors and institutions rather than to resolve pressing issues and make specific, actionable recommendations. Bringing together these individuals can be a powerful force in creating the shared knowledge, trust, and understanding necessary to enable progress in the most difficult areas of health and science policy.

Forums and roundtables bring together a community of stakeholders interested in a broad area of health science policy for a long-term, evidence-based dialogue.



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foruMs and roundtaBles: the Power of ConenInG Forums and Roundtables: The Power of Convening The fundamental work of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) is not simply the creation of documents and reports. It is the act of bringing people together to share and advance knowledge. While creation of a common ground can occur through formal committees with specific reporting objectives and mandated ar- eas of study, it often takes place through forums, roundtables, and symposia, all of which provide opportunities for serendipitous discovery and critical, cross- disciplinary thinking. Symposia are most often held as part of the dissemination activities for an IOM report on a narrowly defined topic. A series of symposia on the subject of childhood obesity, for example, has served to bring the subject and the IOM’s report to the attention of regional media markets and stakeholders. In contrast, forums and roundtables, the IOM’s convening activities, offer a different approach to the exploration of issues in science and public policy than traditional consensus studies. They draw together diverse parties who have shared interests in the health sciences in a neutral setting. Forums and roundtables bring together a community of stakeholders inter- ested in a broad area of health policy for a long-term, evidence-based dialogue. Members of forums or roundtables include individuals from the relevant scientif- ic and practice communities; leaders from government, academia, and industry; and representatives of consumer and public interest groups. The purpose of these gatherings is to illu- minate issues through discussion and debate forums and roundtables bring together across sectors and institutions rather than to a community of stakeholders interested resolve pressing issues and make specific, ac- in a broad area of health science tionable recommendations. Bringing together policy for a long-term, eidence-based these individuals can be a powerful force in dialogue. creating the shared knowledge, trust, and un- derstanding necessary to enable progress in the most difficult areas of health and science policy. 

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Informing the Future: Critical Issues in Health food foRUm Since 1993, the Food Forum of the Food and Nutrition Board has engaged science and technology leaders in the food industry, top administrators from federal agencies in the United States and Canada, representatives from consumer interest groups, and academics in discussing food-related issues. The dialogue established during Food Forum meetings is intended to explore approaches to address emerging issues in the broad areas of food science, food safety, and nu- trition, including technologies and regulations. The Food Forum’s most recent workshop explored the varying approaches, methodologies, and challenges in assessing nutritional risk. foRUm on dRUg diScoveRy, develoPment, and tRanSlation The Forum on Drug Discovery, Development, and Trans- lation (DDDT Forum) was created in 2005 by the Board on Health Sciences Policy to provide an opportunity for leaders from government, academia, industry, and other stakeholders to meet and discuss issues in pharmacology several times each year. In addition, the DDDT Forum commissions research pa- pers to synthesize the literature on selected topics. The DDDT Forum’s workshops thus far have looked at a range of issues from adverse drug event reporting to better understanding of the benefits and risks of pharmaceuticals. foRUm on micRoBial thReatS The Forum on Microbial Threats (FMT), formerly the Fo- rum on Emerging Infections, was established in 1996 to provide a structured opportunity for stakeholder discussions of the prevention, detection, and manage- ment of infectious diseases. The FMT’s membership includes individuals from a wide range of disciplines and organizations in the public and private sectors, including the public health, medical, pharmaceutical, veterinarian, plant pathol- ogy, academic science, agricultural, national security, and environmental com- munities. In recent years, the FMT dialogue has resulted in the illumination of priority issues in infectious disease research and public health policy; the use of new scientific and policy tools; and opportunities for more effective collabora- tion between the private and the public sectors. The FMT’s recent workshops have focused on the ethical and legal components of strategies to thwart pan- 

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Forums and Roundtables: The Power of Convening demic disease as well as the best methods for the surveillance and detection of infectious disease. foRUm on neURoScience and neRvoUS SyStem diSoRdeRS Established in the fall of 2006, the Forum on Neurosci- ence and Nervous System Disorders (FNNSD) focuses on build- ing partnerships to better understand the brain and nervous system disorders in their structure and function as well as to share effective clinical prevention and treatment strategies. The FNNSD concentrates on six themes to better educate the public, press, and policy makers: nervous system disor- ders, mental illness and addiction, genetics of nervous system disorders, cognition and behavior, modeling and imaging, and ethical and social issues. The FNNSD brings together leaders from private-sector sponsors of biomedical and clinical research, federal agencies sponsoring and regulating biomedical and clinical research, foundations, the academic commu- nity, and consumers. The two most recent workshops hosted by the FNNSD were dedicated to neuroscience biomarkers and the environmental and research chal- lenges of autism. In addition, to help identify the long-term priorities of neuro- science field, the FNNSD is beginning a new initiative focused on identifying the grand challenges facing the field and the infrastructure needs required to meet these challenges. national canceR Policy foRUm The IOM established the National Cancer Policy Forum (NCPF) in May 2005 to succeed the National Cancer Policy Board (1997-2005). The NCPF continues the work of the Board in providing a focus within the National Academies for the con- sideration of issues in science, clinical medicine, public health, and public policy relevant to the goals of preventing, palliating, and curing cancer. The NCPF’s two most recent workshops examined cancer in elderly people and the genetic test- ing and counseling issues related to cancer patients. RoUndtaBle on health liteRacy Building on the 2004 IOM report Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion, the IOM convened a Roundtable on Health Literacy. According to the 2004 report, nearly half of all American adults—90 million people—have difficulty understand- ing and using health information, and there is a higher rate of hospitalization and 

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Informing the Future: Critical Issues in Health use of emergency services among patients with limited health literacy. Limited health literacy may lead to billions of dollars in avoidable health care costs. The Roundtable brings together leaders from academia, industry, government, foun- dations, and associations and representatives of patient and consumer groups who have an interest and role in improving health literacy. The Roundtable has held a number of workshops to address specific concerns relevant to health lit- eracy, including the organizational changes necessary to improve health literacy and the role of health literacy in transforming health care quality. RoUndtaBle on enviRonmental health ScienceS, ReSeaRch, and medicine In 1998, the IOM established the Roundtable on Environ- mental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine to provide a convening mechanism for environmental health stakeholders from academia, industry, environmental, and federal research perspectives to meet to discuss sensitive and difficult issues. Presently, the Roundtable has three areas of emphasis: the human-impacted environment, gene–environment interac- tions, and monitoring of environmental health. Two recent workshops held by the Roundtable have looked at the envi- ronmental public health impacts of disasters, with a focus on Hurricane Katrina, and the various aspects and economics of green health care institutions. RoUndtaBle on evidence- BaSed medicine The Roundtable on Evidence-Based Medicine was con- vened in 2006 to help reexamine the way in which evidence on clinical effectiveness is generated and used to improve health and health care. Roundtable members come from a variety of sectors including consumers and patients, health professionals, health care delivery organizations, evaluators and clinical researchers, employees and employers, health information technology developers, health care manufactur- ers, insurers, and regulators. They work with their colleagues to identify issues that are not being adequately addressed, the nature of the barriers and possible solutions, and priori- ties for action. Much of the work is oriented around three ongoing interests: evidence development, evidence applica- 

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Forums and Roundtables: The Power of Convening tion, and sustainable capacity. Several of the Roundtable’s recent workshops have focused on the “learning” health care system—how it might better capture and apply insights generated in the course of care. foRUm on the Science of health caRe qUality imPRovement and imPlementation Formed in 2006, the Forum on the Science of Health Care Quality Improvement and Implementation brings together leaders in quality improvement research, foundations, fed- eral agencies sponsoring and conducting such research, the academic community, medical journals, and implementers of quality improvement. The goals of the Forum are to ad- vance the understanding of the value and appropriate role of research philosophies, cultures, and methods and to develop greater awareness of and support for suitable approaches and methods on the part of key stakeholder groups. The first workshop sponsored by the Forum focused on how quality improvement research might be advanced by looking at the current state of the research and the various barriers in the health care industry. 

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