Definition of National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

National Institutes of Health (NIH): The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is an important U.S. health agency. It is devoted to medical research. Administratively under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the NIH consists of 20-some separate Institutes and Centers. NIH's program activities are represented by these Institutes and Centers.

They are, along with a brief overview of their essential missions, as follows:

  • National Cancer Institute (NCI) - mission is to "lead a national effort to reduce the burden of cancer morbidity and mortality and ultimately to prevent the disease. Through basic and clinical biomedical research and training, NCI conducts and supports programs to understand the causes of cancer; prevent, detect, diagnose, treat, and control cancer; and disseminate information to the practitioner, patient, and public."
  • National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) - mission is to "advance biomedical research and improves human health through research projects and shared resources that create, develop, and provide a comprehensive range of human, annual, technological, and other resources. NCRR's support is concentrated in four areas: biomedical technology, clinical research, comparative medicine, and research infrastructure."
  • National Eye Institute (NEI) - mission is to "conduct and support research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to blinding eye diseases, visual disorders, mechanisms of visual function, preservation of sight, and the special health problems and requirements of the blind."
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) - mission is to "provide leadership for a national research program in diseases of the heart, blood vessels, lungs, and blood and in transfusion medicine through support of innovative basic, clinical, and population-based and health education research."
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) - mission is "to support and conduct research and research training (that) strives to understand, treat, and ultimately prevent the myriad infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases that threaten millions of human lives."
  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) - mission is to "conduct and support a broad spectrum of research on normal structure and function of bones, muscles, and skin, as well as the numerous and disparate diseases that affect these tissues. NIAMS also conducts research training and epidemiologic studies and disseminates information."
  • National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), formerly the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR) - mission is to "provide leadership for a national research program designed to understand, treat, and ultimately prevent the infectious and inherited craniofacial-oral-dental diseases and disorders that compromise millions of human lives."
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) - mission is to "provide national leadership dedicated to understanding, treating, and preventing mental illnesses through basic research on the brain and behavior, and through clinical, epidemiological, and services research."
  • National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) - mission is to "sponsor research that focuses on the clinical care of individuals and on their responses to actual or potential health problems. Through its broad mandate, NINR-supported scientists seek to understand and mitigate the effects of acute and chronic illness and disability, promote healthy behaviors and prevent the onset or worsening of disease and improve the environment in which care is administered."
  • National Institute on Aging (NIA) - mission is to "lead a national program of research on the biomedical, social, and behavioral aspects of the aging process; the prevention of age- related diseases and disabilities; and the promotion of a better quality of life for all older Americans."
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) - mission is to "conduct research focused on improving the treatment and prevention of alcoholism and alcohol-related problems to reduce the enormous health, social, and economic consequences of this disease."
  • National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) - mission is to "conduct and support biomedical research and research training on normal mechanisms as well as diseases and disorders of hearing, balance, smell, taste, voice, speech, and language that affect 46 million Americans."
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - mission is to "lead the nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction through support and conduct of research across a broad range of disciplines and rapid and effective dissemination of results of that research to improve drug abuse and addiction prevention, treatment, and policy."
  • National Library of Medicine (NLM) - mission is to "collect, organize, and make available biomedical science information to investigators, educators, and practitioners and carry out programs designed to strengthen medical library services in the United States. Its electronic data bases, including MEDLINE, are used extensively throughout the world."
  • Center for Information Technology (CIT, formerly DCRT, OIRM, TCB) mission is to "incorporate the power of modern computers into the biomedical programs and administrative procedures of the NIH by focusing on three primary activities: conducting-computational biosciences research, developing computer systems, and providing computer facilities."
  • Center for Scientific Review (CSR) - mission is to serve as "the focal point at NIH for the conduct of initial peer review, the foundation of the NIH grant and award process. The Center carries out peer review of the majority of research and research training applications submitted to the NIH. In addition, the Center serves as the central receipt point for all such Public Health Service (PHS) applications and makes referrals to scientific review groups for scientific and technical merit review of applications and to funding components for potential award. To this end, the Center develops and implements innovative, flexible ways to conduct referral and review for all aspects of science."
  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) - this center "identifies and evaluates unconventional health care practices; and supports, coordinates and conducts research and research training on these practices and disseminates information."
  • Fogarty International Center (FIC) - mission is to "lead the NIH's efforts to advance the health of the American public, and citizens of all nations, through international cooperation on global health threats."
  • Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center (CC) - mission is to "provide the patient care, services, and environment needed to initiate and support the highest quality conduct of and training in clinical research."

The value of the NIH to medical research not only in the USA but in the world as a whole cannot be overestimated.


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