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Celebrating successes and next steps for the Science of Behavior Change Program

Picture of Janine Simmons
Janine SIMMONS,
Chief, Individual Behavioral Processes Branch,
Division of Behavioral and Social Research (DBSR)
.
picture of Chandra Keller
Chandra KELLER,
Social Science Analyst,
Division of Behavioral and Social Research (DBSR)
.

We all know first-hand how tough it can be to adopt and maintain healthy behaviors, even though we know that poor health behaviors account for a good portion of the disease burden in the United States.

In response to this challenge, NIH launched the Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) Common Fund Program in 2009. The program was established with two major long-term goals: 1) to promote a systematic approach to discovering the mechanisms underlying successful behavior change, and 2) to provide blueprints for developing behavior interventions that could reliably improve health outcomes.

Over the past 10 years, under the leadership of co-chairs Dr. Richard J. Hodes, director, NIA; and Dr. Patricia Grady, former director, National Institute of Nursing Research, SOBC has hosted several scientific workshops and annual meetings of investigators and supported 48 awards and administrative supplements. You can learn more about the work of SOBC’s network of researchers in special issues of Behavioural Research and Therapy (February 2018), Health Psychology Review (February 2020), and Health Psychology (September 2020).

Continuing our work

Common Fund programs are meant to be transformative and catalytic, but are, by design, time-limited, with the expectation that the tools and approaches they support will be adopted across NIH and by the field at large. As planned, Common Fund support for the SOBC Program is now coming to an end. However, multiple NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices, including NIA, remain committed to sustaining innovation in the behavior change field.

Efforts are already in place to foster ongoing investigator-initiated work as well as new collaborations with related behavior change research efforts (e.g., OBSSR’s Behavioral Ontologies Development project and the Human Behaviour Change Project) and behavioral intervention development frameworks (e.g., ORBIT Model and the NIH Stage Model). For researchers looking for behavioral science measures that have been validated in accordance with the SOBC approach, the SOBC Measures Repository is an additional resource that continues to evolve.

To further build on our momentum, NIA, NCATS, NCCIH, NICHD, NIDA, NIDCR, and OBSSR are excited to be co-funding another five years of the SOBC Resource and Coordinating Center. The Coordinating Center will provide national leadership and coordination in several areas, including efforts to: expand and improve the SOBC Measures Repository; serve as an incubator for behavior change researchers; encourage adoption and awareness of SOBC tools and advances in mechanisms-focused behavior change research; support systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and the development of a shared vocabulary and taxonomies for the field; and engage with national and international scientific organizations to promote further advances in behavior change research.

SOBC Capstone Virtual Research Conference

In celebration of the program’s 10 years of Common Fund support, we are pleased to announce the SOBC Common Fund Program’s Capstone Conference, to be held remotely Feb. 22-23, 2021. The conference will feature SOBC science advances and accomplishments, highlight innovative examples of mechanisms-focused behavior change science, and bring together experts from around the world to discuss future opportunities for strengthening the field. Visit the meeting website for more information about the agenda. Registration and other details will be available on this website in the coming months, and registration is free and open to the public. Join us!

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