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NIEHS Priorities: The Process of Strategic Planning

Environmental Health Perspectives
Environmental Health Perspectives
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  • Perspectives
  • Director'S Perspective
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  • Ecology
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workingfrontpgs A 362 VOLUME 113 | NUMBER 6 | June 2005 • Environmental Health Perspectives Perspectives As we work to move the NIEHS forward, it is important that we criti- cally consider how our research can have the greatest impact on public health. In last month’s Director’s Perspective, I identified my overarching vision for the NIEHS: to improve human health by elucidating the com- plex relationship between endogenous and exogenous risks within popu- lations and affected individuals, how environmental exposures affect human biology, and how this knowledge can be used to reduce morbid- ity and extend longevity. Fundamental to this vision is an emphasis on human health and disease. Examples of previous research areas sup- ported by the NIEHS that have had a profound effect on human health include: • the link between methylmercury and neurodevelopmental deficits in the fetus; • the role of aflatoxin in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma; • the importance of manganese in neurodegenerative disorders; • the adverse developmental, cognitive, cardiovascular, and renal effects of lead; • the role of polluted air in asthma attacks, and in deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular disease in the elderly; • the contribution of paraoxonase to pesticide toxicity; • the identification of biomarkers of beryllium-induced lung disease; and • the effect of nitrous oxide on fertility. If further advances are to be made—and I believe that the environ- mental health sciences are uniquely poised to profoundly impact the development and progression of disease and substantially improve public health—I am convinced that additional strategic planning is needed to efficiently and effectively focus our resources. Over the past decades, the NIEHS has periodically conducted out- side reviews and assessments of its research directions and priorities, with the objective of setting priorities, readjusting its course, and establishing new goals. The NIEHS has

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