Reflecting on 2018

Illustration has the words “Big Ideas” at the top along with smaller sections that  cover  “epidemiology”, “basic science”,  “biomedical…”, “screening and diagnostics”, and “behavioral…” topics. The image  includes sketches of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, puzzle pieces, a  child saying she loves science, a smartphone, a 130th birthday cake,  a target, and a group with the words “In closing... We are building a platform

"Big Ideas" graphical recording from the strategic planning workshop held in October.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) sets the foundation for a healthy life by conducting and supporting research on fertility, pregnancy, childhood diseases, and physical and intellectual developmental disabilities.

In 2018, NICHD embarked on a strategic planning process that promises to recalibrate and refocus how we conduct and fund research. We have already had several collaborative discussions with internal and external stakeholders who are excited to offer feedback and “think big” (see graphical recording). As we head into 2019, I look forward to more engaging discussion that will help position us to foster innovation and advance the health and well-being of the populations we serve.

2018 was also significant because NICHD played an important role in several exciting new research initiatives at NIH, including the following:

  • The INCLUDE Project. This initiative supports research to address the quality of life and health needs of people with Down syndrome. It also explores health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease, that affect people with Down syndrome differently than the general population. Understanding how someone with Down syndrome is protected from or susceptible to certain conditions can provide new insights and potential treatments for everyone.
  • Trans-NIH Pediatric Research Consortium. Nearly all of the 27 NIH institutes and centers fund some aspects of child health research. In fiscal year 2018, this support totaled approximately $4 billion. This new consortium aims to harmonize these activities, explore gaps and opportunities in the overall pediatric research portfolio, and set priorities.
  • The HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-termSM) Initiative. This trans-NIH initiative tackles the opioid epidemic by boosting research funding for projects including NICHD’s ACT NOW study, which is evaluating treatment options for newborns who were exposed to opioids while in the womb.

Our institute also made key advances this year to help meet the research needs of pregnant women and new mothers.

  • The NICHD-led Task Force on Research Related to Pregnant Women and Lactating Women (a provision of the 21st Century Cures Act) drafted and submitted its report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The report makes recommendations for research on drugs and therapies used by pregnant women and nursing mothers.
  • NICHD contributed to a new survey on pregnancy and disability in the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), an ongoing surveillance project of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments. The new survey will provide important information on the impact of disability on pregnancy and maternal and child health.
  • NICHD fully launched PregSource®, a research project that aims to improve knowledge of pregnancy by collecting information directly from pregnant women. The project will inform strategies for improving maternal care in the United States and abroad.

Additional scientific highlights made possible by our staff, researchers, and grantees are featured in a digital showcase, Selected NICHD Research Advances of 2018.