Issue 07 (April 21)


NIH: Collaborative Innovation Award, Clinical and Translational Science Award Program

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is inviting applications to stimulate innovative collaborative research in the NCATS Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) consortium.  Because translating biomedical discoveries into clinical applications is essential to improving health and at the same time a complex process with high costs and substantial failure rates, the CTSA hubs are designed to promote advances in translational research and training at participating medical research institutions.  NCATS recently released a funding opportunity announcement (FOA), Collaborative Innovation Award, Clinical and Translational Science Award Program (PAR-15-172), to enable collaboration among CTSA hubs to overcome system-wide barriers in translational effectiveness.

“Translation” is defined by NCATS as “the process of turning observations in the laboratory, clinic, and community into interventions that improve the health of individuals, and the public, from diagnostics and therapeutics in medical procedures and behavioral change.”

The FOA is one of several sequential steps being taken by NCATS to evolve the CTSA program to augment its ability, as recommended by a recent Institute of Medicine report (see Update, August 11, 2014). It seeks to encourage all of the CTSA hubs to collaboratively conceptualize, develop, and implement multi-site innovative experimental approaches that overcome translational barriers in science, operations, and training.

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PAA/PRB Briefing Explores the Changing Landscape of Marriage

The Population Association of America, a COSSA governing member, and the Population Reference Bureau, also a COSSA member, held a congressional briefing on April 17 called “The Vow Factor: Marriage, Divorce and Family Formation & their Impact on Health and Well-Being.” COSSA was a co-sponsor of the briefing. Moderated by Robert Moffitt of Johns Hopkins University, the briefing featured presentations on trends and consequences of changes in marriage and parenthood. Andrew J. Cherlin, Johns Hopkins University, gave a presentation on the education-based gap in the marriage rate. Lisa Berkman, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, discussed how single motherhood and maternity leave polices affect women’s health much later in life. The final speaker, Elizabeth Peters, Urban Institute, spoke about incentives for couples to marry and father involvement. A video recording of the presentations will be posted on the Population Reference Bureau’s website.

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Events Calendar

A list of COSSA members’ annual meetings and other events can be found on the COSSA website. COSSA members who have an upcoming event they would like to see listed in the Events Calendar and on our website should send an email to

NIH Appoints Working Group for Precision Medicine Initiative

In March, National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Francis Collins appointed a team of individuals to serve on the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) Working Group on the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI). The Working Group is expected to host public meetings to seek public input into the development of President Obama’s proposed Precision Medicine Initiative. This group will help the NIH define “what can be learned from a study of this scale and scope, what issues will need to be addressed and considered as part of the study design, and what success would look like five and ten years out.”

PMI was launched by President Obama on January 30 and called for initial funding of $215 million in the President’s FY 2016 budget request. This sum includes $130 million dedicated to initiating the process of building a one million or more research cohort of individuals who will volunteer to share biological, environmental, lifestyle, and behavioral information and tissue samples with researchers. It is emphasized that “Participant input through representation on the working group, workshops and other feedback mechanisms will be central to the design and implementation of the study.” (more…)

House COMPETES Bill Targets Social Science

On April 15, House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith introduced the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806). This is legislation to reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bill is scheduled for a markup by the full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on Wednesday, April 22.

While there are some noticeable changes from the bill that the scientific community rallied against last year (known as the FIRST Act), the new bill, authored by Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, continues to challenge the value of social and behavioral science research and restricts NSF’s ability to drive its own research agenda.  COSSA strongly opposes this legislation and released a statement on April 17 detailing its objections.

COSSA’s full analysis of the bill can be found here.

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AHRQ 2014 Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report Shows Improved Overall Quality and Access, Lingering Disparities

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released its congressionally mandated report to Congress on the status of health care quality and disparities in the U.S. In past years, this information has been released as two separate reports (the National Healthcare Quality Report and the National Healthcare Disparities Report). For 2014, AHRQ has chosen to combine the two into the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report (QDR). The agency believes that combining the reports “highlights the importance of examining quality and disparities together to gain a complete picture of health care.” The 2014 report is shorter and more focused than prior year reports, although the complete data will be made available in the form of chartbooks that will be posted monthly beginning in April.

The report shows improvements in the insurance rates for non-Medicare-eligible adults and improvement in health care access for children. In addition, there were improvements in most of the measures of priority health care quality areas identified by the National Quality Strategy, including patient safety, person-centered care, effective treatment measures, and healthy living. However, the report found persistent disparities in the access to and quality of care available to racial and ethnic minority and low-income households. Though some disparities were reduced or eliminated (such as for childhood immunization rates), most did not improve, while some even grew larger (such as those related to hospice care and chronic disease management).

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BTS Releases Annual Report

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) has released its 2013 Transportation Statistics Annual Report (TSAR), which provides detailed information on the U.S. “transportation system, the system’s performance, its contributions to the economy, and its effects on people and the environment.” The congressionally mandated report provides detailed information and identifies data gaps on the extent of the U.S. transportation system, its physical condition, how it moves people and goods, its performance, transportation economics, transportation safety, the energy and environment, and the state of transportation statistics. The scope of the report is large: the U.S. transportation system is valued at $7.7 trillion and encompasses four million miles of roads, 19,000 airports, 140,000 miles of railroads, 25,000 miles of waterways, and 2 million miles of pipelines.

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