Online Program

Virtuous but Invisible Interplay of Science, Policy and Population Health

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 11:30 a.m. - 11:50 a.m.

Mary Woolley, Research!America, Alexandria, VA
Scientists and the research continuum -- medical and public health research -- are essentially invisible to the American public.  The invisibility of scientists has contributed to an erosion of public trust in science; visibility and advocacy by scientists is valuable in shaping public policy to improve population health. A majority of Americans (70%) cannot name a living scientist and more than half (56%) do not know where research is conducted in the U.S., according to polling commissioned by Research!America. Scientists are considered to be trustworthy spokespersons for science, according to a majority of Americans surveyed (81%) yet they remain largely invisible to the public. Lack of awareness leads to misunderstanding and misconceptions among the public regarding the health and economic benefits of research. Controversies raised about vaccines is an example of the disconnect between scientists and the public, underscoring the difficulty in debunking myths about the risk verses benefit of immunizations. Fewer than 60 percent of Americans are confident in the current system in the U.S. for evaluating the safety of vaccines, and recommendations for when they should be given, as compared to 85 percent in 2008, a disturbing decline over the last several years, according to national public opinion polls commissioned by Research!America.  A recent AAAS/Pew research poll shows 86% of surveyed AAAS members say childhood vaccines such as MMR should be required, compared to 68% of the general public.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Communication and informatics
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe how the invisibility of scientists impacts the public’s perception of public health (i.e. the safety and efficacy of vaccines). Explain how advocacy for science influences public policy as it relates to funding, legislation and regulatory policies. Analyze public opinion poll data to gain a better understanding of how Americans view the role of science in improving population health. Evaluate the track record of your congressional representatives in terms of their support for public health issues.

Keyword(s): Advocacy, Public Policy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am active nationally and internationally as an advocate for research that advances population health, and write and speak frequently on this topic. I am an elected member of the Institute of Medicine; a member of the National Academy of Science Board on Life Sciences; a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. I serve on several academic and independent research institute boards and advisory councils.
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.