Online Program

Public health and the federal advisory committee act at 40

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 1:30 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.

Jason L. Schwartz, Ph.D., MBE, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the implementation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), the legislation that governs the design and operations of most outside advice to the U.S. government. The activities of scientific advisory committees are among the most visible aspects of the government's regulation and promotion of pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and related products. The substantial attention given to the deliberations and recommendations of groups at the FDA, the CDC, and elsewhere belies their formal roles limited to providing only non-binding guidance to federal health agencies. As part of the Affordable Care Act, outside experts will now have even greater influence on health care and public health in the United States, directly shaping government decision-making regarding the effectiveness and value of preventive and therapeutic interventions. This paper explores the history, legacy, and enduring impact of FACA on the government's regulation and promotion of public health. It highlights key moments in the evolution of what was initially an innovative and controversial plan to create formal mechanisms for incorporating outside experts in the day-to-day work of federal agencies responsible for public health. It also historicizes perennial concerns regarding alleged conflicts-of-interest among advisors and other threats to their independence. Forty years after the introduction of FACA, advisory committees are increasingly prominent and influential, playing critical roles in the translation of evidence into federal public health regulation and policy. An account of the past, present, and future of this system is therefore relevant to anyone active in public health research or practice.

Learning Areas:

Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe major developments in the growth, evolution, and influence of expert advisory committees in U.S. federal public health regulation and policy from the 1960s to the present. Explain the role of the Federal Advisory Committee Act in shaping the structure and function of expert advice to government in these areas. Describe some of the major theoretical and practical debates regarding the composition and work of external advisory bodies in public health decision-making at the national level.

Keyword(s): Federal Policy, History

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have written extensively about the history and ongoing role of expert scientific advice to government in areas related to public health, including a doctoral dissertation and several papers. I also served as a staff member to a federal advisory committee that worked on topics related to public health and biomedicine.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.