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New Report Recommends Ways to Strengthen the U.S. Optical and Infrared Astronomy System

April 17, 2015

The U.S. ground-based optical and infrared astronomy system includes a combination of public and private facilities and a range of small-, medium-, and large-aperture telescopes and instruments that vary in sensitivity and functionality. A new report from the National Research Council recommends improvements in its observational, instrumentation, and data management capabilities and coordination among federal and private partners to better position the system to meet the objectives described in the Research Council's recent decadal surveys on astronomy and astrophysics and planetary science. Read More

Continued Maintenance and Management of Air Force Health Study Research Assets

April 17, 2015

Congress should continue to support the maintenance of the Air Force Health Study data and biospecimens and to facilitate making them available to the scientific community as broadly as possible, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. In 1979, Congress directed that an epidemiologic study, formally called the Air Force Health Study (AFHS), evaluate the possible health effects related to exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used during the Vietnam conflict. After the study concluded, the research assets -- including biological samples and medical examination records from veterans and a comparison group -- were transferred to the custodianship of the IOM. A later public law instructed that the AFHS assets become available for scientifically peer-reviewed research studies. Because the AFHS has been accessible to the scientific community for less than three years, the vast majority of its potential is yet to be realized, the report says. It identifies two options for the continued maintenance and management of the AFHS assets.

Building Healthier Communities After Disasters

April 15, 2015

U.S. communities and federal agencies should more intentionally seek to create healthier communities during disaster preparation and recovery efforts – something that rarely happens now, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. By adding a health "lens" to planning and recovery, a community can both mitigate the health damage caused by disasters and recover in ways that make the community healthier and more resilient than it was before. Read More

Report Recommends Three Actions to Help Promote Cognitive Health

April 14, 2015

Gradual and variable change in mental functions that occurs naturally as people age, not as part of a neurological disease such as Alzheimer's disease, is one of the most challenging health issues encountered by older adults, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. Known as "cognitive aging," the type and rate of change can vary widely among individuals. Some will experience very few, if any, effects, while others may experience changes in their memory, speed of processing information, problem solving, learning, and decision-making abilities. The report presents three top actions individuals can take to help maintain optimal cognitive function with age. Read More

Psychological Testing Would Strengthen Process for Social Security Disability Determination

April 10, 2015

Broader use of standardized psychological testing for applicants submitting disability claims to the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) should improve the accuracy and consistency of disability determinations, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. Some proponents of mandatory psychological testing, in particular validity testing, for SSA disability applicants argue that it would result in a significant reduction of individuals allowed onto the benefits rolls and a substantial cost savings. The study committee that wrote the report said the data necessary to accurately assess the effects on the rolls or calculate financial costs and benefits are limited, and estimates based on available data are subject to considerable error. However, the report provides a framework for evaluating the financial impact of implementing the committee’s recommendations. Read More

Hamburg Appointed as IOM Foreign Secretary

April 6, 2015

Margaret A. (Peggy) Hamburg, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has been appointed the next foreign secretary of the Institute of Medicine. In this part-time position, Hamburg will serve as a senior adviser on international matters to the IOM president and council and as liaison to foreign academies of medicine and science. Her term begins today and runs through June 30, 2019. Read More

Report Offers Blueprint to Improve Professional Care and Education of Children From Birth to Age 8

April 1, 2015

Given that children's health, development, and early learning provide a critical foundation for lifelong progress, the workforce that provides care and education for children from birth through age 8 needs consistent, high-quality training to produce better outcomes for children, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. To build a workforce unified by a common knowledge base and necessary skills, the report offers a blueprint with specific actions for local, state, and national leaders in areas of higher education, professional learning during ongoing practice, policies for qualification requirements, and other standards for professional practice. Read More

New Report Describes Options for Providing Affordable Flood Insurance Premiums

March 26, 2015

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) within the Federal Emergency Management Agency faces dual challenges of maintaining affordable flood insurance premiums for property owners and ensuring that revenues from premiums and fees cover claims and program expenses over time. A new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council found that these objectives are not always compatible and may, at times, conflict with each another. The report discusses measures that could make insurance more affordable for all policy holders and provides a framework for policymakers to use in designing targeted assistance programs. Read More

Assessing Agent-Based Models for Tobacco Regulation

March 25, 2015

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has broad regulatory authority over tobacco products and uses models as one tool to help guide policy. Recently, FDA has been exploring the usefulness of a particular modeling approach — agent-based models (ABM) — to inform its decisions. A new report from the Institute of Medicine says that ABMs are a useful tool and could add to the understanding of tobacco initiation, cessation, and relapse processes. While a particular ABM developed for FDA, titled Social Network Analysis for Policy on Directed Graph Networks, does not accurately represent many of the important characteristics of tobacco use, much can be learned from its development that could be applied to future models of tobacco use. Read More

U.S. Engineering Schools Commit to Educate 20,000 'Grand Challenge Engineers'

March 23, 2015

In a letter of commitment presented to President Obama today, more than 120 U.S. engineering schools announced plans to educate a new generation of engineers expressly equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing society in the 21st century. Read More

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