« PreviousContinue »
The Role of the Federal Government in
Human Nutrition Research
Hearing by the Subcommittee on Science, Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Research
and Foreign Agriculture
July 14, 1983
Follow-Up Questions for Deparment of Agriculture
la. Question. When can Congress expect to receive the plan? How do you plan to
provide for broad participation from the academic and private sectors in the development of the plan?
Question. What agency and position has been assigned responsibility for USDA's contribution to the plan? What Department and position has accepted the responsibility to coordinate this activity among all Departments involved?
Answer (a & b). The highest priority of the newly created interagency Human Nutrition Coordinating Committee is to continue the excellent work begun by the Joint Subcommittee on Human Nutrition Research toward the development of a Human Nutrition Research Plan. The Committee is co-chaired by Assistant Secretary Bentley (USDA) and Assistant Secretary Beant (HHS) and has represent at ives from eight agencies and/or departments with an active interest in Human Nutrition Research. Both secretaries have assumed the responsibility for this task. It is our intent to involve those members of the academic and private sectors who participate in this research through Federal support; specifically, the Human Nutrition Research Centers in USDA and the Clinical Nutrition Research Units in HHS. It is difficult to project when a completed plan will be ready, however, it is the intent of the Committee co-chairman to keep Congress informed of progress through yearly reports.
2a. Question. When was the last time the Department completed a comprehensive
review of the mission and effectiveness of the Centers? Please provide a brief summary of the review. When is the next program review planned and who will conduct the review?
Answer. A comprehensive review of the mission and effectiveness of ARS Human Nutrition Research including the Human Nutrition Research Centers was completed during FY 82. A comprehensive report was prepared and is available. (see attached following these questions)
There are a number of reviews scheduled for the near future. The program at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging will be reviewed by the standing Executive Committee on October 7, 1983. The program at the Human Nutrition Research Center at Baylor will be reviewed November 8-10, 1983, by a Board of Scientific advisors. There is also a Task Force made up of USDA and outside scientists and administrators who will conduct a program planning conference of Human Nutrition Research in ARS and its relationship to other Agricultural Research. Its first meeting is scheduled for September 21-23, 1983.
2b. Question. How many Federal Employees are currently employed at the Baylor
and Tufts Centers? Please provide an up-date on the Department's plans to operate the Tufts Center as a GO-co (Government owned-contract operated)?
Answer. There is present ly one Federal employee at the Baylor Center. He is the Assistant Director for Operations. All research is carried out by Staff members of the Baylor College of Medicine. There are present ly four Federal employees at the Tufts Center. The Director, Associate Director, Head of the Nutrtion Evaluations Laboratory, and a Secretary.
The request for proposal for the management operations and maintenance of the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University has been released to Tufts University for their formulation of technical and cost proposals. A technical evaluation panel has been selected and a Scientific Program Officer located at Tufts and an Assistant to the Deputy Administrator for Human Nutrition, National Program Staff, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) will exercise all delegated authorities in approving, coordinating, and evaluating contractor-proposed and conducted research activities responsive to the Statement of Work contained in the contract. ARS personnel will assure that program and scientific provisions of the GOCO contract are met and the Federally-owned HNRCA research facility is propertly maintained.
2c. Question. The House Appropriations Committee report for FY 84 recommends
$6.9 million in planning funds for the Human Nutrition Research Center at Baylor. Is USDA planning to build a Federal facility for this Center? When do you plan to request funds for research to fully utilize this Center?
Answer. The USDA conducted in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine a feasibility study to determine the best possible way to supply adequate facilities to carry out its research program. Presently the program is carried out in leased space in a medical building adjacent to Baylor. It was determined that a separate facility is required, however, the options are open. No target date has been set to request funds for construction.
20. Question. At the May USDA National Advisory Council for Maternal, Infant
and Fetal Nutrition, FNS announced a study to develop better determinants of nutritional status of children. Is this research to be contracted out or is it a part of the current functions of the ARS Human Nutrition Research Centers at Houston or San Francisco? What role do the Centers play in meeting the research needs of agencies such as FNS, HNIS, and FSIS?
Answer. Through communication and joint planning with action and regulatory agencies dealing with nutrition, ARS attempts to incorporate the research priorities of the action agencies into the program plans. In the case of ENS that is referenced, two separate statements of work are being studied by members of ARS Human Nutrition Research Centers and at this time a response is being prepared. It is anticipated that the Children's Human Nutrition Research Center at Baylor and the other from the Western Human Nutrition Research Center in San Francisco will be able to conduct this work. This particular work will be supported by funds transferred to ARS from FNS.
Much of the research conducted by the Centers is developing scientific information needed by the Agencies such as FNS, HNIS and FSIS. Many of the specific needs of these agencies are development and assimilation of specific technologies that utilize scientific information. It is unlikely that the ARS programs at the five Centers will be able to meet all the research needs of these action agencies.
2e. The ARS Six-year Implementation Plan calls for decreasing research on the
nutrient content of foods. What is the rationale for this decision? How will ARS provide data for the Nutrient Data Bank if this activity is reduced by 50 percent? Was HNIS, the agency responsible for maintaining the Nutrient Data Bank, in agreement with this decision?
Answer. The Six-year Implementation Plan allocated resources on a relative priority basis. Areas of research that required further development were (1) nutrition requirements of children, pregnant women and lactating mothers, (2) nutrition requirements of the elderly, and (3) bioavailability of nutrients in foods. Since nutrient content of foods is an area that HNIS is heavily committed to and since much of the analyses can be carried out by industry, it seemed obvious that ARS should concentrate on the development of methods to carry out nutrient analyses while leaving the actual analyses to be carried out by others. This area is consistent with HNIS' responsibility and plans.
2f. Question. The Private Sector Task Force recommended the transfer of some of
the USDA Human Nutrition Research Centers to DHHS because this ARS research is inconsistent with its primary mission. How do you view this recommendation and what action is planned?
Answer. The private sector task force indicated that the ARS Human Nutrition Research was heavily oriented toward clinical or disease-related research and this should be transferred to HHS. ARS does not intend to conduct disease-related research. Though human subjects are often used in the pursuit of its research, the nutrition research is directed toward determining the nutritional requirements of people at all phases of life from infancy to old age. This in fact is the proper function of USDA since the USDA is responsible for supplying adequate food and fiber to the American people. Adequate means nutritionally adequate and therefore there needs to be close communication between the producers and the nutrition scientists who study the consumer's requirements.
3a. Question. How will USDA use this system to plan research priorities for
budget requests and to manage programs within each fiscal year? Answer. The information available in the Information Management System will! allow USDA program leaders quick access to all federally supported Human Nutrition Research. The Special Analysis which is carried out in order to determine the areas of research which need to be addressed will be greatly facilitated by this information. Part of USDA's planning process is to determine who is addressing which issues. In so doing USDA can then de emphasize research in areas that are adequately studied by others and emphasize research that is being neglected. This is a major factor in setting priorities for budget requests.
4a. Question. In 1981, at the time USDA reorganized human nutrition activities
a new Workgroup on Human Nutrition was formed to coordinate research, education, information, and technology transfer. What specific activities has this group undertaken? Who is responsible for the progress of this group and how successful has this coordination mechanism been?
Answer. The USDA Workgroup for Human Nutrition was organized in late 1981 under the USDA Research and Education (R&E) Committee. The R&E Committee is a part of the Secretary of Agricutlure's Policy and Coordination Council. In May 1983 the USDA R&E Committee was reorganized and the Human Nutrition Work Group was designated as one of two sub-committees.
Activities undertaken by the group include (1) identification of priority issues and concerns of USDA agencies related to human nutrition (2) assistance in design of the Human Nutrition Management Information System, and (3) improved communications among the eight USDA agencies involved in human nutrition related activities.
Responsibility for progress of the group has alternated between ARS and
As a coordinating mechanism the group has been moderately successful.
4(b) Question. Please provide an organization chart illustrating the specific
human nutrition coordination entities within the Department, the issues which each is responsible for, and designated interaction between each entity.
Answer. Organization charts are attached for the Secretary's Policy and Coordination Council and the USDA Research and Education Committee showing the relat onship of the Subcommittee on Human Nutrition to these organizations. The other interagency group within the USDA related to nutrition is the Working Group on Human Nutrition Publications and Information which is a part of the Food and Consumer Services Committee of the Secretary's Council.
Agency membership on the Subcommittee and Working Group is nearly identical