The Need for Health and Biomedical Science Education Programs Aimed at Grades K–12 at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Spread the love

Recent reconfiguration of federal funding for STEM education has resulted in important programs at the NIH losing their funding. Below is information on Health and Biomedical Science Education Programs Aimed at
Grades K–12 at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In the proposed FY 2014 budget, President Obama has set a policy that all STEM education funding be consolidated into three institutions, the NSF for graduate and undergraduate training, the Dept. of Education for K-12 STEM and the Smithsonian for informal education. Justification for this policy was improved efficiency and reduction of duplication of efforts, despite the government’s Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) Dec. 2011 report, Federal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (stem) education portfolio, conclusion that “examination of the inventory data indicates very little overlap and no duplication among Federal STEM education investments.”

This policy is problematic because it dictates that NIH cease all STEM education programs, which includes the Science Educator Partnership Awards (SEPA) that fund BrainU (that is a specific program that is losing its funding). NASA and NOAA have also been prevented from continuing their STEM education efforts. These agencies have already begun policy implementation as Executive branch employees execute presidential policy. All NIH health education programs will disappear officially Oct. 1, 2013 unless we mobilize Congressional action to reinstate funding for SEPA. A full description of this problem can be found at

This is problematic because a sub-mission of the NIH is to disseminate health information. This policy decision means that NIH will lose the ability to share health science educational materials for K-12 audiences. For scientists like myself who translate health information knowledge directly to teachers and indirectly to their students, this is a major setback. This policy sends the message that my colleagues and I are not supposed to be communicating with you as teachers.

Here’s what you need to do to raise your voice in support of SEPA

Contact your US Congressional Representatives and Senators. Below is a draft letter being circulated to all SEPA programs and participants, but you may find this letter a good template for making a more generalized show of support even if you are not a SEPA person. It only takes a few minutes to personalize this letter (1- 2 sentences is enough) and paste it into the contact your congress websites (see below). This is especially important for those of you in the south Metro and near SE MN who live in Minnesota’s 2nd District – U.S. Congressman John Kline’s district – as he is chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee.

Our “ask” in these letters is that the funding for NIH health science K-12 education programs (SEPA) be reinstated.

We view neuroscience as part of health education since our message has been – and continues to be – that teaching learners about how their brains change through learning will improve their prospects and motivation to learn in all formal education settings AND in life as they move forward.

Please go to the websites for your congressional representatives and upload this letter with your personal touches to this campaign to save the NIH Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program from which BrainU is funded.

More Information:

Health and biomedical sciences for grades K-12 are critical components of STEM education that help to ensure the nation’s capability to prevent disease and improve health. The proposed 2014 STEM education consolidation plan, however, eliminates K-12 health and biomedical science education from its traditional place in the portfolio of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and, by default, from the national STEM education agenda. No other federal agency supports programs comparable to those that would be lost.

More than 65 NIH-funded, K-12 health and biomedical science education projects currently operate in 40 states. These include “in-person” programs for more than 82,500 K-12 students and 5,750 K-12 teachers each year, and online programs that reach more than 20 million K-12 students and educators annually. NIH-funded exhibitions at some of the nation’s largest museums and science centers reach millions more students, teachers and families. With emphasis on engaging underserved populations, K-12 educational initiatives supported by NIH create thoroughly evaluated, science-rich interactive exhibits, curriculum materials, teacher professional development programs, student and teacher research experiences, and out-of-school learning opportunities.

Ongoing NIH-funded K-12 educational programs benefit the nation in the following ways.

  • Improve preparation for, and access to careers in medicine, healthcare, biotechnology and biomedical research, with a focus on students from under-represented groups.
  • Address health disparities by increasing access to college and health professions careers for under-served students, who are more likely than their peers to practice in medically underserved areas.
  • Build public understanding and support of biomedical research and clinical trials through educational programs that emphasize the relationship between NIH discoveries and their translation into positive health outcomes
  • Encourage and facilitate involvement of biomedical research scientists in K-12 STEM education, and engage the resources of colleges, universities, medical schools and science museums in supporting K-12 STEM education.
  • Promote health literacy and better decision-making to address preventable health problems among America’s youth, reduce the burdens of chronic illnesses and infectious diseases, and enable consumers to make sense of genetic and other newly available health information.
  • Increase students’ interest in STEM topics through personally relevant examples from health and biomedicine that are aligned with recommendations of the Next Generation Science Standards.
  • For more than two decades, NIH has invested in the development of human capital and a unique infrastructure that is meeting our nation’s K-12 health and biomedical science education needs. These investments have produced significant, demonstrable outcomes that would not have been possible otherwise. Current K-12 programs sponsored by NIH, including the Office of Science Education, employ rigorous, results-oriented and cost-effective approaches to tackle major national issues, as listed below.

    Jobs: Healthcare and biomedical science are crucial elements of the economy. The US Department of Commerce estimates that healthcare accounts for $1.75 trillion in revenues and employs more than 14 million people (nine percent of the US workforce).

    Provider Shortages: The nation faces an acute shortage of healthcare workers in all areas, and the problem is expected to grow. The American Association of Medical Colleges projects that there will be a shortage of more than 90,000 physicians—including 45,000 primary care physicians—by the end of the decade. About 55 million people already lack access to a physician.

    Wellness and Disease Prevention: According to the Milken Institute, more than half of all Americans suffer from one or more chronic diseases, many of which are preventable. Healthcare spending is projected to reach almost 20% of the US gross domestic product by 2021. Racial and ethnic minorities suffer disproportionately from diseases such as cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS, but participate less frequently in programs that could help to reduce disparities.

    Without K-12 health and biomedical science education initiatives, our nation will be unable to solve many of its most pressing workforce, economic and healthcare problems.

    Draft Letter

    May 22, 2013

    The Honorable

    Dear :

    I write to express my deep concern that the President’s proposed “consolidation” of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education programs will eliminate the health-centered, precollege (K-12) education programs of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). For more than two decades, these programs have been the primary method by which NIH translates its basic and clinical discoveries to millions of children, families and teachers in the US.

    As your constituent, I urge you to consider the implications of this change and to support retention of funding for K-12 health-related education within NIH, enabling the Institutes to continue this broad, critically important pathway to health literacy and jobs.

    The programs slated for elimination have been a tremendous resource for K-12 students and teachers, especially those in minority and disadvantaged schools, for whom biomedical educational resources are very limited. Equally important, they are unique among all federal programs in enhancing health literacy and are crucial to NIH’s mission of promoting the health of our nation’s citizens. “In-person” programs engage more than 82,500 K-12 students and 5,750 K-12 teachers each year and online programs reach more than 20 million annually. Exhibitions at some of the nation’s largest museums and science centers reach millions more children, teachers and families

    None of the agencies delegated to assume responsibility for STEM programs – National Science Foundation, Smithsonian Institution, and Department of Education – have a health education priority. The proposed action will result in the loss of critical, high-impact health-focused programs. Consolidation will greatly reduce the number of students entering health and biomedical research careers, threatening our nation’s overall health and health literacy.

    NIH precollege programs enable biomedical researchers, health professionals and educators at universities, colleges, science museums and other organizations to connect with teachers, children and their families across the country. This outreach provides our communities with invaluable learning opportunities related to research, health, and wellness. Biomedical and health sciences are important areas of workforce development for the US economy in the 21st Century. Research demonstrates that NIH K-12 education programs are key to attracting students to these fields, thereby driving a robust biomedical economy and enhancing national health and wellness.

    As a participant in the NIH SEPA BrainU program at the University of Minnesota, . Understanding how brains learn and process information is critical health information that learners will use throughout their lives. This message is one from the 80+ programs that will be abruptly ended by the consolidation policy that does not distinguish health literacy from general STEM education.

    These essential programs must be retained so that the NIH can meet its unique mission of fostering our nation’s leadership in biomedical discovery and improving the health of its citizens. If this consolidation occurs, these effective programs and expertise will be lost.

    Please feel free to contact me about this issue. I would be glad to provide additional insights into how this program has impacted my classroom so we may work together to save these important NIH programs.


    your name

    Have you read the breakthrough novel of the year? When you are done with that, try:

    In Search of Sungudogo by Greg Laden, now in Kindle or Paperback
    *Please note:
    Links to books and other items on this page and elsewhere on Greg Ladens' blog may send you to Amazon, where I am a registered affiliate. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, which helps to fund this site.

    Spread the love

    One thought on “The Need for Health and Biomedical Science Education Programs Aimed at Grades K–12 at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *