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Health Policy Committee Update

By Marian L. Fitzgibbon, PhD, Health Policy Committee Chair

The Health Policy Committee (HPC) identifies, assesses and develops key opportunities to inform the policy debate at the federal level on issues related to the SBM mission. The Committee seeks to develop policy positions for the Society to be reviewed and approved by the Executive Committee acting for the Board. These briefs are designed to highlight the contributions of behavioral medicine in advancing healthcare and public health.

A major focus of HPC activity during the past several years has been to identify areas where SBM can position itself in matters that can impact policy. For example, in 2008, HPC members Drs. Marian Fitzgibbon, Laura Hayman, and Debra Haire-Joshu wrote a brief entitled, "Childhood Obesity: A Policy Statement of the Society of Behavioral Medicine" which is now posted on the SBM website. Following this, in an effort to understand the role of behavior in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, a review paper was initiated by Dr. Ed Fisher. The goal of the paper was to highlight the role of behavior as central to health and the role of behavioral interventions to prevent disease, improve disease management, increase quality of life, and reduce healthcare costs. A summary of evidence was presented for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer that included key risk factors such as tobacco use, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol consumption. For each chronic disease, data were synthesized related to: (1) moderation of genetic and other fundamental biological influences by behaviors and social/environmental factors; (2) impacts of behaviors on health; (3) success of behavioral interventions in prevention; (4) disease management; (5) quality of life; and (6) improvements in the health of populations through behavioral health promotion programs. Evidence strongly supported the cost effectiveness and value of behavioral interventions. Other HPC members including, Drs. Marian Fitzgibbon, Russ Glasgow, Debra Haire-Joshu, Laura Hayman, Robert Kaplan, Marilyn " Susie" Nanney, and Judith Ockene each made major contributions to this piece which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2011. (PMICID:3137947).

The HPC is now developing a model where we work closely with the Public Policy Leadership Group (PPLG), other SBM key stakeholders such as president-elect, Dr. Dawn Wilson, content experts that are not necessarily members of the HPC, and Special Interest Groups (SIG) chairs. We are also creating senior investigator/early career investigator partnerships to advance relevant health policy briefs in a timely manner, while also more formally structuring a mentor/mentee process to advance the careers of developing early career scholars. Through this process we will identify senior content experts on the HPC that can mentor more early career investigators in the writing of briefs. Our hope is that this model will provide SBM with convincing and persuasive briefs that are useful to policy makers, while also establishing a mentoring model that is advantageous to SBM members at different stages in their careers. Our first brief will focus on the role of community park revitalization and physical activity. Dr. Paul Estabrooks will serve as the senior content expert. Dr. Natalie Colabianchi, research assistant professor at the University of Michigan, and Dr. Sandy Slater, a research assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago will take the lead as the early career investigators. Dr. David Marquez, chair of the Physical Activity SIG, will also be involved, with additional consultation by Drs. James Sallis and Abby King, as needed.

Finally, HPC is delighted that Dr. Amy Yaroch has agreed to be a member of the HPC. A longstanding member of SBM, Amy was formerly a program director/behavioral scientist at the National Cancer Institute and is currently the Executive Director of the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition in Omaha, Nebraska.