Convening and Collaborating: Forums and Roundtables
As a fundamental part of its work, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) serves as a neutral meeting place where diverse groups of people can meet to share information and advance knowledge. Although creating common ground can occur through formal committees with specific objectives and areas of study, it often takes place through forums, roundtables, and symposia that 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 focused topic. A series of symposia on childhood obesity, for example, brought the subject and the IOM’s report to the attention of regional media markets and stakeholders.
Forums and roundtables draw together an array of stakeholders interested in a broad area of health science or public policy for a long-term, evidence-based dialogue. Members of forums and roundtables typically include experts from the scientific and practice communities; leaders from government, academia, and industry; and representatives of consumer and public interest groups, among others.
These gatherings are intended to illuminate issues through discussion and debate across sectors and institutions rather than to make specific, actionable recommendations to directly drive policy. Bringing together these individuals can be a powerful force in creating the shared knowledge, trust, and understanding necessary to foster progress in the most difficult areas of health and science policy.
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, top-level representatives from academia, and leaders of consumer interest groups in discussing food-related issues. The dialogue established during meetings is intended to illuminate emerging issues in the broad areas of food science, food safety, and nutrition, including technologies and regulations. The Forum’s most recent workshop explored the use of nanotechnology in food and the management of food safety practices from the beginning of the supply chain to the marketplace in an effort to understand food safety risks that continue to emerge.
Forum on Drug Discovery, Development, and Translation
The Forum on Drug Discovery, Development, and Translation, created in 2005 by the Board on Health Sciences Policy, provides an opportunity for leaders from government, academia, industry, and other stakeholder groups to meet several times a year to discuss ongoing and emerging issues in pharmacology. In addition, the Forum commissions research papers to synthesize the literature on selected topics. Forum workshops have looked at diverse issues such as improving the process for reporting adverse drug events and advancing understanding of the benefits and risks of pharmaceuticals.
Forum on Microbial Threats
The Forum on Microbial Threats—formerly called the Forum on Emerging Infections, which was established in 1996—considers issues related to the
prevention, detection, and management of infectious diseases. The Forum’s membership includes individuals from a range of disciplines and organizations in the public and private sectors, including the public health, medical, pharmaceutical, veterinarian, plant pathology, academic science, agricultural, national security, and environmental communities. In recent years, Forum dialogues have illuminated priorities in infectious disease research and public health policy; the use of new scientific and policy tools; and opportunities for more effective collaboration between the private and the public sectors. Recent workshops have focused on global climate change and the emergence and spread of infectious diseases, as well as on the biological and ecological context of vector-borne diseases and their impact on the health of the public.
Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders
Established in 2006, the Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders focuses on building partnerships to further understand the brain and nervous system disorders in their structure and function and to share effective clinical prevention and treatment strategies. The Forum concentrates on six main areas: nervous system disorders, mental illness and addiction, the genetics of nervous system disorders, cognition and behavior, modeling and imaging, and ethical and social issues. The Forum brings together leaders from private-sector sponsors of biomedical and clinical research, federal agencies sponsoring and regulating biomedical and clinical research, foundations, the academic community, and public and consumer groups. The Forum’s most recent workshops focused on neuroscience biomarkers and the environmental and research challenges of autism. In addition, the Forum is beginning a new initiative to focus attention on the “grand challenges” facing the neuro-
science field and the infrastructure required to meet these challenges.
National Cancer Policy Forum
The National Cancer Policy Forum was established in 2005 to succeed the National Cancer Policy Board, which had been formed in 1997. The Forum considers a range of issues in science, clinical medicine, public health, and public policy relevant to the goals of preventing, palliating, and curing cancer. The Forum’s two most recent workshops examined cancer in older people and the genetic testing and counseling issues related to cancer patients.
Forum on Medical and Public Health Preparedness for Catastrophic Events
The Forum on Medical and Public Health Preparedness for Catastrophic Events, established in 2007, focuses on strengthening the nation’s medical and public health preparedness for acts of terrorism or natural disasters by improving communication and the coordination of activities among federal, state, and local government agencies as well as private-sector groups. The Forum, which convenes three times a year, brings together major stakeholders from government, industry, professional societies, foundations, academia, and other interested groups to discuss emerging scientific research and policy matters related to national preparedness. Among the new initiatives under development for 2009 are a workshop on medical surge capacity and a series of regional meetings devoted to exploring situational standards of care and allocation of scarce resources.
Roundtable on Health Literacy
The Roundtable on Health Literacy was created in 2004, in response to the IOM report Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion, which found that nearly half of all American adults—90 million people—have difficulty understanding and using health information. The Roundtable brings together leaders from academia, industry, government, foundations, and patient and consumer groups who have an interest and role in improving health literacy. The Roundtable’s workshops have exposed a number of specific concerns relevant to health literacy, 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
Established in 1998, the Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine brings together stakeholders from government, academia, industry, and environmental groups to discuss sensitive and difficult issues related to environmental health. The Roundtable currently has three areas of emphasis: the human-impacted environment, gene–environment interactions, and the monitoring of environmental health. Two recent Roundtable workshops have looked at the environmental 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, established in 2006, focuses on examining how evidence is generated and used to improve health and health care. In particular, the Roundtable aims to identify issues that are not being adequately considered, barriers that are impeding progress and ways to overcome those barriers, and priorities for action. Roundtable members include consumers and patients, health professionals, representatives from health care delivery organizations, evaluators and clinical researchers, employees and employers, health information technology developers, health care manufacturers, insurers, and regulators, among others. The Roundtable concentrates on three main areas: evidence development, evidence application, and sustainable capacity in the areas of clinical effectiveness research, electronic health records, best practices, and evidence communication. Several recent Roundtable workshops have focused on the learning health care system, and examined how the health care delivery system might better capture and apply insights generated in the course of care, as well as achieve value in health care.
Roundtable on Translating Genomic-Based Research for Health
The Roundtable on Translating Genomic-Based Research for Health focuses on advancing the field of genomics and improving the translation of research findings to health care, education, and policy. The Roundtable brings together leaders from academia, industry, government, foundations, and other groups who have a mutual interest in a range of emerging issues, including the economic implications of genomic research and its clinical applications, access to the results of genomic research, and public concerns about genomic science. To achieve its objectives, the Roundtable conducts structured discussions, workshops, and symposia. Roundtable members determine specific agenda topics, which have spanned a broad range of issues relevant to the translation process. The Roundtable has
conducted workshops on the translation process that include diffusion of genomic information, innovations in genetic service delivery, and systems for research and evaluation of genetic/genomic innovations.
Roundtable on Health Disparities
The Roundtable on Health Disparities focuses on issues related to racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care as a national problem, the development of programs and strategies to reduce disparities, and the need to encourage new leadership in a variety of fields to reduce disparities. Roundtable members include experts from the health and social sciences, industry, and the community. Recent Roundtable workshops have focused on the challenges and successes in reducing health disparities.