NIH: Office of Disease Prevention


History of the Office of Disease Prevention


The Office of Disease Prevention (ODP) was created in 1986 in response to a directive in the Health Research Extension Act of 1985 (PDF - 3.11 MB) to create the position of Associate Director for Prevention. The Associate Director was charged with promoting and coordinating prevention research among NIH Institutes and Centers and other public and private entities. The ODP’s functional statement included advising the NIH Director and senior staff; coordinating disease prevention and nutrition research activities; and conducting evidence-based assessments of the state of the science and medical practice.

The Office of Medical Applications of Research (OMAR), established in 1977, was transferred from the Office of the Director (OD) to the ODP in 1986. OMAR activities included coordinating, reviewing, and facilitating the systematic identification and evaluation of clinically relevant information and promoting the effective transfer of this information to a variety of stakeholders. A key program in the OMAR was the Consensus Development Program (CDP), which held conferences and produced consensus statements on important and controversial topics in medicine. CDP statements were widely disseminated to health care practitioners, policymakers, patients, the media, and the general public and were often used by professional societies to develop guidelines for clinical practice.

The Prevention Research Coordinating Committee (PRCC), established in 1980, was transferred from the OD to the ODP in 1986. The PRCC serves as an advisory body to the Director of the ODP and makes recommendations regarding scientific, programmatic, and policy issues. The PRCC is composed of representatives from each of the Institutes and Centers with a disease prevention research portfolio, together with representatives from several federal partners with a strong interest in prevention (e.g., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality).


The Division of Nutrition Research Coordination (DNRC) was established in the ODP to advise the NIH Director and others on nutrition research issues and to work with the NIH organizational components to coordinate nutrition research and research training initiatives.


The Office of Rare Diseases (ORD) was established within ODP to serve as the federal focal point for rare disease biomedical research.


The DNRC was transferred to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).


In 1995, the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) was established within the ODP in response to a directive in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. The ODS was charged with conducting and coordinating research at the NIH relating to dietary supplements; collecting scientific data and compiling a database of research on dietary supplements; and serving as a principal advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Health, the Directors of the NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Administrator of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Robert S. Gordon, Jr. Lecture was also established in 1995. The award is made annually to a scientist who has contributed significantly to the field of epidemiology or clinical trials research, and it is awarded by the NIH on the advice of the ODP and recommendation of the Epidemiology and Clinical Trials Interest Group. The Gordon Lecture is part of the NIH Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series, which is organized by the Office of Intramural Research to invite distinguished scientists to present topics of broad scientific interest to a cross-section of NIH researchers.


ORD was codified in statute by the Rare Diseases Act of 2002.


In 2003, the ODP developed Medicine in the Media, an annual course designed to help develop journalists’ and editors’ abilities to evaluate and report on medical research. The course examines the challenges and opportunities inherent in the process of communicating the results of medical research to the public.


The ODP established the Medicine: Mind the Gap webinar series in 2007. The series explores issues at the intersection of research, evidence, and clinical practice-areas in which conventional wisdom may be contradicted by recent evidence. From the role of advocacy organizations in medical research and policy, to off-label drug use, to the effectiveness of continuing medical education, the webinar series aims to engage the NIH community in thought-provoking discussions that challenge current beliefs and encourage critical thinking about today’s research environment.


In 2008, the ODP was transferred to the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, which was established to meet the requirements of the NIH Reform Act of 2006. The ORD was re-titled the Office of Rare Diseases Research (ORDR).


The ORDR was transferred to the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).


As part of the ODP’s reorganization, OMAR activities, staff, and resources were transferred to the ODP, its parent office. CDP State-of-the-Science Conferences were discontinued, and the program’s focus shifted to yearly Consensus Development Conferences on prevention topics with clinical and broad public health importance.

The Tobacco Regulatory Science Program was transferred to the ODP in 2012. The TRSP is a trans-NIH collaborative effort with the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products to conduct research to support FDA’s regulatory authority for tobacco products. This program supported approximately $66 million in new research in 2012.

In 2012, the ODP hosted its first Pathways to Prevention program on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. These workshops are designed to identify methodological and scientific weaknesses in a scientific area and move the field forward through an unbiased and evidence-based assessment of a complex clinical issue.


The ODP sponsored its last Medicine in the Media course.

The ODP retired the Consensus Development Program.


The ODP released its first Strategic Plan in 2014.

Associate Directors for Prevention and Directors of the Office of Disease Prevention.

William T. Friedewald, M.D. (1986–1989)
John H. Ferguson, M.D. (Acting, 1989–1991)
William R. Harlan, M.D. (1991–2001)
Barnett S. Kramer, M.D., M.P.H. (2001–2010)
Paul M. Coates, Ph.D. (Acting, 2010–2012)
David M. Murray, Ph.D. (2012–Present)