the Division of Behavioral, Social, and Economic Sciences (DBASSE) at the National Research Council. In the past 10 years there have been more than 300 publications (books) in response to DBASSE assignments, covering a wide range of areas that are directly or indirectly related to health concerns, including: children and families; education, employment, and training; environment; health and behavior; human performance; international studies; law and justice; national statistics; and population and urban studies. Their level of focus ranges from the individual level to the societal level, and they cover the entire range of social and behavioral sciences and extend even to such related fields (such as ecology and criminology). A few examples of reports directly relevant to health concerns include: Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility; Educating Children with Autism; Informing America’s Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don’t Know Keeps Hurting Us; Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children; Protecting Youth at Work: Health, Safety, and Development of Working Children and Adolescents in the United States; Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders: A Review of the Evidence; Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society; Understanding Violence Against Women; Preventing HIV Transmission: The Role of Sterile Needles and Bleach.
As described in the 2005 NRSA report:
The social and behavioral sciences deal with the most complex and the least predictable phenomena that affect the nation’s health. One tends to think of mental health in this context, and indeed mental health is an important concern at NIH (in NIMH in particular) and in the government and private sector generally. Yet mental health is only one part of a much larger picture, because many of the most important health problems we face are determined and strongly affected by behavioral, social, and economic factors. Consider just a few examples: At the level of behavior of the individual, the behavioral and social sciences produce knowledge about health issues, such as drug and alcohol abuse, obesity, violent behavior, smoking, maintenance of drug treatment regimens, stress management, ability to cope with illness, and health decision-making. There are many critical health issues that emerge at a larger scale. The economics of health care and delivery critically determine what diseases and problems are attacked, what research is carried out, and which populations are given treatment. The government has recognized these factors with multi-million-dollar investments in surveys such as the Health and Retirement Survey, the National Longitudinal Survey, and the National Survey of Families and Households. The social sciences provide critical insights and knowledge concerning our ability and willingness to deal with disability, choices that promote well being, the use of and willingness to expend income and assets for health purposes, distribution of health care (geographically, sociologically, and economically), use and misuse of nursing homes, health provider behavior, psychological and social effects on morbidity and mortality, social and psychological effects on treatment and recovery, transfer of assets and beliefs across generations, social support mechanisms, economics of alternative health-care systems, care-taking approaches, bereavement and its effects, and health decision making. Societal, behavioral, and economic factors all work together to produce such problems as drug abuse, smoking, alcohol abuse, anorexia/bulimia, and obesity. Treatable diseases are making a comeback in more virulent form because reliable methods cannot be found to insure that drugs are taken over their entire recommended time period. Social and sexual diseases, such as AIDS/HIV, are a large and increasing problem. Even crime and violence are in good part a health problem that requires behavioral and social science research. It is now accepted that many diseases that have historically been considered mainly a matter for biomedical research, diseases such as heart disease, lung disease, drug addiction, tuberculosis, and malaria, cannot be treated and understood without understanding provided by behavioral and social research. When these far reaching health implications of behavioral, social, and economic factors are added to the more direct implications of research for mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, and various neurological illnesses, it is no surprise that the research demand in the behavioral and social sciences has grown rapidly in recent years.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) traditionally provided primary support for research in the behavioral and social sciences, and with secondary support from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Other institutes provide support to a lesser degree, and recently there has been increasing support from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). It should be noted that the primary mission of NIMH is research into prevention and treatment of mental disorders, and of NIA and NICHD is research into the health problems of young and aging populations; thus none directly supports research into key factors underlying such societal health problems. It is not the task of this committee to make recommendations concerning the allocation of research support in various institutes of NIH. It is the committee’s task, however, to make recommendations concerning research training and its funding, and the implications of social and behavioral research for such a wide array of health problems demand that research in most NIH institutes be informed by scientists knowledgeable in the basic techniques and methods of, and the findings of, the behavioral and social sciences. This particularly includes empirical design and quantitative and statistical methodology that has been so effectively refined in the social and behavioral sciences. Thus in institutes that do not presently have a direct focus on research in the behavioral and social sciences, at least some training needs be directed toward researchers with this focus.
The behavioral and social sciences workforce is difficult to identify, since data sources do not distinguish between