Monday, May 15, 2017

New NIAAA strategic plan aims to advance alcohol research across a broad spectrum of areas


As scientific advances continue to expand our understanding of how alcohol affects human health and point to new ways to address alcohol-related harm, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has released its 2017-2021 strategic plan for research.  The new plan serves as a roadmap for optimizing the allocation of NIAAA’s resources to areas of alcohol research most likely to benefit from additional support, translating scientific discoveries for the benefit of the public, and continuing to build on NIAAA’s position as the nation’s key source of evidence-based information on alcohol and health.

“There has never been a better time to accelerate progress across the spectrum of alcohol research,” said NIAAA Director George F. Koob, Ph.D. “Our strategic plan builds on recent transformative developments in basic research, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment and charts our course for the next five years as we seek to address the many public health challenges caused by alcohol misuse.”

Approximately 16 million people in the United States have alcohol use disorder (AUD). ; An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.  Alcohol is involved in nearly half of all liver disease deaths, and prenatal alcohol exposure is a leading preventable cause of birth defects.  Alcohol problems cost the U.S. $249 billion each year.  Improving these circumstances will depend on continued research to more fully define the biological underpinnings of alcohol problems, as well as ongoing translational efforts to turn that knowledge into new or improved diagnostics, preventive strategies, and treatment options.

For nearly five decades, NIAAA has conducted and supported an integrated and multidisciplinary program of cutting-edge research to reduce the toll that alcohol misuse takes on human health and well-being. This work has significantly broadened our understanding of the factors that contribute to alcohol-related problems and the mechanisms by which they develop. Once viewed as a moral failing or character flaw, AUD is now widely recognized as a chronic brain disease with potential for recovery and recurrence. This shift in perspective, supported by advances in neurobiological research, has helped reduce the stigma associated with AUD, led to more effective prevention and treatment, and provided support for integrating prevention and treatment services into mainstream health care.

NIAAA’s strategic plan is organized into five goals:

  1. Identify Mechanisms of Alcohol Action, Alcohol-Related Pathology, and Recovery
  2. Improve Diagnosis and Tracking of Alcohol Misuse, Alcohol Use Disorder, and Alcohol-Related Consequences
  3. Develop and Improve Strategies to Prevent Alcohol Misuse, Alcohol Use Disorder, and Alcohol-Related Consequences
  4. Develop and Improve Treatments for Alcohol Misuse, Alcohol Use Disorder, Co-occurring Conditions, and Alcohol-Related Consequences
  5. Enhance the Public Health Impact of NIAAA-Supported Research

In addition, the Institute has identified the following cross-cutting themes, which are essential to fulfilling NIAAA’s mission:

  • Address Alcohol Misuse Across the Lifespan
  • Address Co-Occurring Conditions
  • Reduce Health Disparities
  • Advance Precision Medicine
  • Strengthen the Biomedical Research Workforce
  • Serve as a Responsible Steward of Our Nation’s Research Resources

The NIAAA strategic plan was developed with input from NIAAA’s Advisory Council, the broader research community, and the general public, who were invited to submit comments on a draft version of the plan last year.  The new plan is available on the NIAAA website at www.niaaa.nih.gov/strategic-plan.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health, is the primary U.S. agency for conducting and supporting research on the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol problems. NIAAA also disseminates research findings to general, professional, and academic audiences. Additional alcohol research information and publications are available at https://www.niaaa.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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