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NIDCD Strategic Plan: FY 2003-2005

Background

Diseases and Disorders of Human Communication Are Significant Health Problems

Effective communication is essential for the function of modern society. While science and technology have greatly improved our capacity for communication, many aspects of contemporary life remain profoundly difficult for individuals with communication disorders. It is estimated that one of every six Americans experiences some form of communication disorder (e.g., hearing impairment, dizziness, balance problems, smell and taste disorders, and voice, speech, or language disturbances). Communication disorders often compromise social, emotional, educational, and vocational aspects of an individual's life. The cost of these disorders in terms of quality of life and unfulfilled potential is substantial. As the population ages and the survival rate for medically fragile infants and individuals who have sustained injury improves, the number of individuals with communication disorders will continue to increase.

The mission of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) is to conduct and support basic and clinical research and research training in the normal and disordered processes of hearing, balance, smell, taste, voice, speech, and language. Basic and clinical research studies focused on understanding the normal processes and disorders of human communication are motivated by intrinsic scientific interest, the importance of allowing all individuals to reach their full potential, and importance to the health of the Nation.

In January and February 1999, the NIDCD convened a group of 18 distinguished scientists and members of the public to provide recommendations for a Strategic Plan for the NIDCD for Fiscal Years 2000-2002. The Strategic Planning Group was asked to identify areas of research that fell within the mission of the NIDCD. The Strategic Planning Group considered the research currently supported by the Institute, as well as NIH-wide scientific initiatives. In addition, oral presentations and written statements from public organizations with an interest in research supported by NIDCD were provided to ensure that the public's perspective would be assimilated into the recommendations for a Strategic Plan. The final draft of the plan was discussed in detail at the NDCD Advisory Council meeting on May 27, 1999. To keep current with the state-of-the-science and advances in the field, the plan was reviewed and updated at the January 18, 2002, meeting of the NDCD Advisory Council.

Research Areas That Offer Extraordinary Scientific Opportunity

  1. Determine the Molecular and Epidemiological Bases of Normal and Disordered Communication Processes

  2. Study the Development, Deterioration, Regeneration, and Plasticity of Processes Mediating Communication

  3. Study Perceptual and Cognitive Processing in Normal and Disordered Communication

  4. Develop and Improve Devices, Pharmacologic Agents, and Strategies for Habilitation and Rehabilitation of Human Communication Disorders

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