The Science of Healthy Behaviors
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National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Nursing Research
Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research

The Science of Healthy Behaviors

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About NIH

About the National Institutes of Health

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Begun as the one-room Laboratory of Hygiene in 1887, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) today is one of the world’s foremost biomedical and behavioral research centers and the federal focal point for health research in the United States.

Mission and Goals

The NIH mission is science in pursuit of fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability. The goals of the agency are to

NIH works toward meeting those goals by providing leadership, direction, and grant support to programs designed to improve the health of the nation through research in the


Composed of 27 separate institutes and centers, NIH is one of eight health agencies of the Public Health Service within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH encompasses 75 buildings on more than 300 acres in Bethesda, Md., as well as facilities at several other sites in the United States. The NIH budget has grown from about $300 in 1887 to more than $28 billion in 2005.

Research Programs

One of NIH’s principal concerns is to invest wisely the tax dollars entrusted to it for the support and conduct of this research. Approximately 82 percent of the investment is made through grants and contracts supporting research and training in more than 2,000 research institutions throughout the United States and abroad. In fact, NIH grantees are located in every state in the country. These grants and contracts make up the NIH Extramural Research Program.

Approximately 10 percent of the budget goes to NIH’s Intramural Research Programs, the more than 2,000 projects conducted mainly in its own laboratories. These projects are central to the NIH scientific effort. First-rate intramural scientists collaborate with one another regardless of institute affiliation or scientific discipline and have the intellectual freedom to pursue their research leads in NIH’s own laboratories. These explorations range from basic biology to behavioral research, to studies on treatment of major diseases.

Grant-Making Process

The grant-making process begins with an idea that an individual scientist describes in a written application for a research grant. The project might be small, or it might involve millions of dollars. The project might become useful immediately as a diagnostic test or new treatment, or it might involve studies of basic biological or behavioral processes whose clinical value may not be apparent for many years.

Each research grant application undergoes peer review. A panel of scientific experts, primarily from outside the government, who are active and productive researchers in the health sciences, first evaluates the scientific merit of the application. Then, a national advisory council or board, composed of eminent scientists as well as members of the public who are interested in health issues or the biomedical or behavioral sciences, determines the project’s overall merit and priority in advancing the research agenda of the particular NIH funding institutes and centers.

About 38,500 research and training applications are reviewed annually through the NIH peer-review system. At any given time, NIH supports 35,000 grants in universities, medical schools, and other research and research training institutions, both nationally and internationally.

NIH Nobelists

The roster of people who have conducted NIH research or who have received NIH support over the years includes some of the world’s most illustrious scientists and physicians. Among them are 115 winners of Nobel Prizes for achievements as diverse as deciphering the genetic code and identifying the causes of hepatitis. You can learn more about Nobelists who have received NIH support at

Impact on the Nation’s Health

Through its research, NIH has played a major role in making possible many achievements over the past few decades, including these:

Science Education

Science education by NIH and its institutes and centers contributes to ensuring the continued supply of well-trained basic research and clinical investigators, as well as the myriad professionals in the many allied disciplines who support the research enterprise. These efforts also help educate people about scientific results so that they can make informed decisions about their own—and the public’s—health.

This curriculum supplement is one such science education effort, a collaboration among four partners: the NIH National Institute for Nursing Research, the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, the NIH Office of Science Education, and Biological Sciences Curriculum Study.

For more about NIH, visit its Web site at

About the National Institute of Nursing Research

There are more than two and a half million nurses in the United States, making nursing the largest healthcare profession. People consistently rate nurses highly for being trustworthy. You can find nurses in a variety of settings. While most work in hospitals, others work in schools, community centers, clinics, government offices, and businesses, and many provide home care for people outside the hospital.

The National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is a government agency that supports the work of nurse researchers. Nurse researchers are nurses who have received advanced education in science. They study questions that arise from the daily experiences of nurses. Many of these questions involve finding ways for nurses to help people of all ages stay healthy, prevent diseases, or manage symptoms such as pain, nausea, and fatigue, and to care for the ill or injured.

To promote health or provide care for patients, nurses need to know what methods work best. That is the role of research. For example, nurse researchers have explored ways to help children start healthy habits that can bring lifelong benefits, or overcome a variety of health problems. Here are some of the results from NINR research studies:

The work of nurse researchers advances our understanding of health and illness. This allows nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals to promote good health and deal with a wide range of health conditions and diseases. The nursing research supported by NINR can and does make a difference in the lives of many people.

For more about NINR, contact the NINR Office of Science Policy and Public Liaison at or visit this Web site:

About the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) opened officially July 1, 1995. The U.S. Congress established the OBSSR in NIH’s Office of the Director in recognition of the key role that behavioral and social factors often play in illness and health. The OBSSR mission is to stimulate behavioral and social sciences research throughout NIH and to integrate these areas of research more fully into others of the NIH health research enterprise, thereby improving our understanding, treatment, and prevention of disease.

The major responsibilities of the OBSSR and its director, set forth in its formal mission statement, are

Additional information about the OBSSR, including its activities and accomplishments, can be found at this Web site:

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