(Beyond Pesticides, November 29, 2007) As a follow-up to a Congressional hearing in September 2007, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is planning to develop a unified program referred to as “Partnerships for Environmental Public Health” (PEPH). The intent of the program is to support a variety of research, outreach and educational activities to prevent, reduce, or eliminate environmental exposures that may lead to adverse health outcomes in communities, with the active engagement of those communities in all stages of the work.
To establish a vision for the PEPH Program, NIEHS is seeking input from the lay public, environmental health researchers, healthcare professionals, educators, policy makers and others with a vested interest in the effects of environmental exposures on public health. The NIEHS released a Request for Information (RFI) — available at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-ES-08-002.html — with six open ended questions that will help the institute advance its commitment to environmental public health.
NIEHS requests that public input be sent to Mr. Liam O’Fallon (firstname.lastname@example.org) by January 19, 2008. The following are easy ways to submit your responses:
1. Download interactive Adobe Acrobat form [http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/docs/pephform.pdf] that can be completed and submitted electronically;
2. Copy and paste the questions from the RFI into the body of an e-mail message and send your responses to email@example.com; or
3. Mail or fax your responses in a letter to the attention of Mr. O’Fallon (address provided in the RFI).
This effort grew out of Congressional hearings, September 25, 2007, held in the U.S. House of Representatives Domestic Policy Subcommittee, which is chaired by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), to examine the impact on public health of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ (NIEHS) new research direction and priorities. A new emphasis on treating disease has come at the expense of preventive research, education and outreach, according to Rep. Kucinich. There was bipartisan agreement in the committee that this change in direction compromised public health, pointing the NIEHS’s 2006-2011 strategic plan and current budget priorities.
In March 2007, the Domestic Policy Subcommittee in conjunction with the Oversight and Government Reform Committee began an inquiry into former NIEHS director David Schwartz, M.D., amid allegations of conflicts of interest, financial misconduct, profiting from his title as director, and extremely low morale and lack of confidence among agency employees. In August 2007, Dr. Schwartz was asked to temporarily step down as director of NIEHS while the National Institute of Health (NIH) conducts its own internal investigation.
As reported on The Scientists.com, Samuel Wilson, acting director of NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, testified at the hearing that he intends to restore cuts to NIEHS programs that focus on disease prevention, long-term epidemiological research, education and outreach.
At the hearing, Rep. Kucinich pointed to several cuts in programs aimed at the prevention of environmental diseases, gave several examples of these cuts, including this year’s discontinuation the National Children’s Study program, which followed the health and development of more than U.S. 100,000 children from before birth to age 21, an almost one million dollar drop from the 2005 to the 2007 budget of NIEHS’s journal Environmental Health Perspectives, and the elimination of the community-based participatory research in environmental health program, which received $4.7 million in the 2004 budget.
Contact: Liam R. O’Fallon, Program Analyst, Division of Extramural Research and Training
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, P.O. Box 12233 (MD EC-21), Research Triangle Park, NC 27709; (T) 919.541.7733, (F) 919.316.4606, (E) firstname.lastname@example.org
(W) http://www.niehs.nih.gov/science-education/. Overnight Deliveries can be sent to: 79 TW Alexander Drive, Bldg 4401, Room 3457, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709.