Whether we see food as medicine or as the cause of disease, medical and agricultural research have the potential to come together in innovative ways to help consumers and producers understand and face the challenges of following a healthful diet. More than 100 leaders in agriculture, health research, education policy, and industry convened at the National Academies in June 2003 to share their opinions on what would be a more efficient and effective system for conducting food and health research. Some of their thoughts follow. Participants concluded that no one organization or agency can solve food-related health issues alone-- the nation needs better mechanisms for bringing together its agriculture and health-care infrastructures to address food-related health problems. Addressing the obesity issue, in particular, will require a multidisciplinary strategy that includes research on foods, consumer knowledge and behavior, and the economics of food- and health-related activities, including food pricing, health-care costs, and agricultural support programs.
To provide independent guidance to the EPA, Congress asked the National Research Council to study the relevant issues. The result was a series of four reports on the particulate-matter research program. The first two books offered a conceptual framework for a national research program, identified the 10 most critical research needs, and described the recommended timing and estimated costs of such research. The third volume began the task of assessing initial progress made in implementing the research program. This, the fourth and final volume, gauged research progress made over a 5-year period on each of the 10 research topics. The National Research Council concludes that particulate matter research has led to a better understanding of the health effects caused by tiny airborne particles. However, the EPA, in concert with other agencies, should continue research to reduce further uncertainties and inform long-term decisions.