For nearly a year, NIEHS conducted planning, collected input, and weighed priorities for its next strategic plan. The draft document, “Strategic Plan 2018–2023: Advancing Environmental Health Science, Improving Health 2.0,” is available for public comment until March 30.
The goal of this strategic planning process is to define strategic objectives that support the NIEHS mission and vision by anticipating, setting, and meeting priorities in environmental health sciences research, training, and translation. Although the new plan incorporates many of the priorities found in the previous plan, they are organized in a new conceptual framework.
This framework includes three interdependent strategic objectives. The NIEHS planning team, led by Sheila Newton, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation (OPPE), identified key focus areas for implementation.
- Advancing environmental health sciences.
- Promoting the translation of data to knowledge to action.
- Enhancing scientific stewardship and support.
“Our previous plan successfully guided us over the past five years in making significant discoveries and developments,” said NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director, Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. “Our hope is to continue to build on the progress made, while pushing the field of environmental health sciences forward, through exploration and adoption of new technologies, approaches, and tools that can improve human health.”
Advancing environmental health sciences — The first objective articulates the NIEHS’s research priorities across biological systems and all levels of biological organization.
Within this objective, many of the previous plan’s priorities are revisited, including study of individual susceptibility, the microbiome, the exposome, and predictive toxicology. Data science and so-called big data receive an even greater emphasis than before, due to the increased need for these approaches in environmental health sciences.
Promoting the translation of data to knowledge to action — The second objective represents the NIEHS focus on translating research findings into actions that improve public health at all levels, including individual, community, population, and global.
A critically important aspect of this objective is the development of partnerships for translation and action. Focus areas under this objective include the following.
- Communications, outreach, and engagement.
- Evidence-based prevention and intervention.
- Health disparities research and intervention.
- Understanding and addressing emerging environmental health issues.
Enhancing scientific stewardship and support — The third objective addresses the foundational supports required to achieve the research and translation objectives. This objective identifies the need for wider evaluation of how NIEHS research, training, and translation activities promote health and reduce harmful environmental exposures. These supports include the following.
- Training and workforce diversity.
- Conduct of research issues, such as ensuring rigor and reproducibility.
- Developing necessary facilities and resources for cutting-edge collaborative research, especially data infrastructure.
NIEHS seeks comment from researchers in academia and industry, health care professionals, patient advocates and advocacy organizations, scientific or professional organizations, federal agencies, and any interested members of the public on the draft plan.
(Kimberly Thigpen Tart, J.D., is a program analyst in OPPE.)