#SciComm, Opioids and Global Health: A Look Back at Research!America’s 2017 Webinars

Izzy Okparanta

Research!America’s webinars in 2017 tackled a variety of timely health and policy issues, such as the nation’s opioid crisis which accounts for six out of 10 drug overdose deaths, the vital role of federally supported global health research, and the importance of effective communication in educating the public and lawmakers about the far-reaching benefits of public and private sector research. Scientists, students, advocates, influencers, decision-makers and media participated in the webinars, which provided relevant and detailed information to raise awareness and inform advocacy initiatives.  

On December 4, Research!America and the Society for Neuroscience hosted the webinar “Leveraging Public Opinion in Support of Science,” during which experts analyzed public opinion survey data and discussed how to leverage those findings to effectively communicate about the value of scientific research. “Being an advocate, connecting to people, is about engaging hearts and minds, and making engagement in public outreach the new normal for the science community,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO, Research!America. Christopher Volpe, Ph.D., executive director, ScienceCounts; and Navneet Matharu, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow, University of California San Francisco, also shared their insights on science communication, the Three Minute Thesis and survey data on public perception of science.

During Research!America’s October 13 webinar “Innovative Research And The Opioid Epidemic: Are We Closer To Finding Solutions?,” experts discussed the role of researchers and pharmacists in addressing the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis, as well as the epidemic’s short- and long-term public health implications. Georges Benjamin, M.D., executive director, the American Public Health Association, and Research!America board member, said emergency departments and incarceration facilities can play an important role in stemming the crisis by starting opioid abuse patients on medication-assisted therapy to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Tailoring how opioids bind to receptors in the brain could provide pain relief without side effects like addiction, said Nora Volkow, M.D., director, National Institute on Drug Abuse. “This is an area of science that’s fascinating,” Volkow added. Jeffrey Bratberg, Pharm.D., clinical professor, University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy, called on researchers, pharmacists and other health professionals to better educate the public about substance use disorder in order to reduce the stigma surrounding it.

The webinar “The Fogarty International Center: How Americans Benefit from Global Health Research,” hosted by Research!America on May 25, brought together experts from academia, government and professional societies to discuss Fogarty’s unique role in forming vital partnerships and building global health capacity to detect and address infectious disease outbreaks such as Ebola, Zika, bird flu and SARS. “These things are always going to be with us,” said Roger Glass, M.D., Ph.D., director of The Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health. “How are we going to develop the diagnostics and the tools that need to be developed so that we can protect ourselves? That’s one of the main challenges that Fogarty is attempting to address.” The other speakers were Chris Beyrer, M.D., MPH, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Bob Bollinger, M.D., MPH, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Christine Lubinski, vice president for global health, Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Click here to learn more about these webinars and view recordings. 

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America’s economic destiny lies in innovation, technology, science and research.
The Honorable John E. Porter