The Institute of Medicine: Advising the Nation, Improving Health

Childhood obesity, vaccination safety, pandemic flu, the problem of the uninsured, the quality of the U.S. health-care system—these are all health concerns that appear regularly in the national news. These topics are also some of the many subjects of recent reports by the Institute of Medicine.

The nation turns to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies1 for science-based advice on matters of biomedical science, medicine, and health. A private, nonprofit organization specifically created for this purpose as well as an honorific membership organization, the IOM was chartered in 1970 as a component of the National Academy of Sciences. The Institute provides a vital public service by working outside the framework of government to ensure scientifically informed analysis and independent guidance.

As a vibrant and distinguished membership organization, the IOM celebrates outstanding achievement and sets standards for excellence. The Institute’s members are elected on the basis of their professional achievement and capacity for service. They, along with many other experts, serve without compensation in the conduct of IOM studies, workshops, and other activities on matters of significance to health. An unusual diversity of talent among Institute members is assured by the charter stipulation that at least one-quarter be selected from outside the health professions, from such fields as the natural, social, and behavioral sciences, law, administration, engineering, and the humanities. The number of regular members plus foreign associates currently exceeds 1500.

Unlike many honorific societies, the IOM is committed to public service. The Institute regularly undertakes studies to provide authoritative and scientifically balanced answers to difficult questions of national importance ranging

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The National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council comprise the National Academies. The first three are professional elective bodies, and the latter is an operating arm of the National Academies. In carrying out its program, the IOM adheres to all procedures used by the National Research Council.



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Informing the Future: Critical Issues in Health, Third Edition The Institute of Medicine: Advising the Nation, Improving Health Childhood obesity, vaccination safety, pandemic flu, the problem of the uninsured, the quality of the U.S. health-care system—these are all health concerns that appear regularly in the national news. These topics are also some of the many subjects of recent reports by the Institute of Medicine. The nation turns to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies1 for science-based advice on matters of biomedical science, medicine, and health. A private, nonprofit organization specifically created for this purpose as well as an honorific membership organization, the IOM was chartered in 1970 as a component of the National Academy of Sciences. The Institute provides a vital public service by working outside the framework of government to ensure scientifically informed analysis and independent guidance. As a vibrant and distinguished membership organization, the IOM celebrates outstanding achievement and sets standards for excellence. The Institute’s members are elected on the basis of their professional achievement and capacity for service. They, along with many other experts, serve without compensation in the conduct of IOM studies, workshops, and other activities on matters of significance to health. An unusual diversity of talent among Institute members is assured by the charter stipulation that at least one-quarter be selected from outside the health professions, from such fields as the natural, social, and behavioral sciences, law, administration, engineering, and the humanities. The number of regular members plus foreign associates currently exceeds 1500. Unlike many honorific societies, the IOM is committed to public service. The Institute regularly undertakes studies to provide authoritative and scientifically balanced answers to difficult questions of national importance ranging 1   The National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council comprise the National Academies. The first three are professional elective bodies, and the latter is an operating arm of the National Academies. In carrying out its program, the IOM adheres to all procedures used by the National Research Council.

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Informing the Future: Critical Issues in Health, Third Edition from quality of medical care to the national smallpox vaccination program; from centers of excellence at the National Institutes of Health to protecting the nation’s food supply. The IOM also convenes roundtables, workshops, and symposia that provide an opportunity for public- and private-sector experts to discuss contentious issues in an open environment that facilitates evidence-based dialogue. The majority of our studies and other activities are requested and funded by the federal government. The IOM itself, private industry, foundations, and state and local governments may also initiate ideas for studies and programs. Additionally, for three decades, the IOM has managed the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowships Program, which is designed to develop the capacity of outstanding mid-career health professionals in academic and community-based settings to assume leadership roles in health policy and management. The Institute and the National Academies use a unique process to obtain the most authoritative, objective, and scientifically balanced answers to difficult questions of national importance. Our work is conducted by committees of volunteer scientists—the country’s leading experts—who serve without compensation. Committees are carefully composed to assure the requisite expertise and to avoid bias or conflict of interest. Every report produced by our committees undergoes extensive review and evaluation by a group of experts who are anonymous to the committee, and whose names are revealed only once the study is published. The results of these committee deliberations have been relied upon for the past 35 years to provide policymakers with objective advice. The aim in all of IOM’s activities is to improve decision-making by identifying scientifically sound evidence to inform the deliberative process. Over its history, the IOM has become recognized through its projects as a national resource of judgment and veracity in topics related to biomedical science, medical care, and human health. Depending on the request, studies may be narrow in scope, designed to answer very specific and technical questions, or they may be broad-based examinations that span many academic disciplines, industries, and even international borders. This booklet provides a brief look at the work of the Institute and high-lights some of the policy areas that we believe will be important in the next several years. It is organized into two sections. The first section illustrates the work that we have done in several topic areas and the last section provides a comprehensive bibliography of IOM reports published since 2001.