UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Over the past four decades, prevention science has grown steadily, producing evidence-based practices and policies that prevent negative medical, social and emotional impacts before they occur. Increasingly, the Penn State-led National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives (NPSC) is being recognized for its work translating science to policymakers, educators, practitioners and communities.
Diana Fishbein, professor of human development and family studies at Penn State and president and co-director of the NPSC, said that the goal of the coalition is to improve lives by preventing social ills and promoting well-being by translating scientific knowledge into effective and sustainable practices, systems and policies.
“I founded the coalition six years ago while at RTI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition based out of North Carolina,” said Fishbein. “I received a National Institutes of Health grant to develop a national conference series gathering scientists and agency representatives to begin a conversation about translating science to policy. The NPSC was formed to formalize the association of conference participants on social issues such as mental health, poverty and juvenile justice.”
Fishbein also was a co-investigator on a grant from the Obama administration’s Promise Neighborhoods initiative to uplift impoverished neighborhoods.
“When the grant ended we wanted to continue to translate our research to impact communities,” Fishbein said.
Currently, the coalition is largely a volunteer 501c3 nonprofit organization but receives foundation funding for various projects. It includes more than 700 members and is comprised of an interdisciplinary group of scientists, educators, community stakeholders, policymakers, advocates and foundation representatives. Additionally, there is a contingent of 59 Penn State researchers and graduate students who are members.
“We want to bring the science to life; if we don’t, then we are just publishing for other scientists and not for those who stand to benefit.”
— Diana Fishbein, professor of human development and family studies at Penn State
Fishbein recently received the Presidential Award from the Society for Prevention Research (SPR) in part for her work with the NPSC. Fishbein also received the SPR Public Service Award in 2018 and the SPR Translational Science award in 2017.
Other NPSC board members from Penn State were recognized by the SPR this year as well. Max Crowley, assistant professor of human development and family studies and director of the Social Science Research Institute’s Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative, and Taylor Scott, assistant research professor in the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, were recipients of the SPR’s Public Service Award. Crowley also is one of the founders of the Research-to-Policy Collaboration, which stemmed from the NPSC.
In addition, NPSC board member Will Aldridge, advanced implementation specialist and director of The Impact Center at FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina, won the SPR Translational Science award.
On an ongoing basis, the NPSC contributes to congressional briefings on a variety of topics.
“Six experts participated in a gun violence prevention briefing after the Parkland school shooting last year, which also included a young survivor and a mother who had lost her daughter in the shooting. This fall, the coalition will be briefing Congress on the differences between substance addiction and substance dependence,” said Fishbein, explaining that there are many people who rely on pain medications to manage chronic pain and are suddenly unable to access the medications they need through legitimate channels. Another NPSC initiative is helping to make sure that the children of substance users are referred to evidence-based programs and services.
Additionally, NPSC writes policy statements for legislators and is developing a congressional prevention science caucus to inform the decision-making process. Members of the group act as legislative consultants to make certain accurate science is being utilized in policymaking.
The NPSC serves as an outreach vehicle to organizational affiliates and communicates science to end users via op-ed pieces, and, new this fall, a webinar series.
“We want to bring the science to life; if we don’t, then we are just publishing for other scientists and not for those who stand to benefit,” Fishbein said.