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Society of Behavioral Medicine Annual Meeting

The Society of Behavioral Medicine Annual Meeting took place in Washington, DC on March 30-April 2, 2016. The meeting covered a broad range of topics germane to behavioral medicine with sessions addressing cutting-edge research on health behaviors and behavior change, patient engagement and communication, management of chronic conditions, and population health and health disparities.  Within these content areas, two themes were consistently addressed: 1. precision medicine and the role of behavioral science and 2. opportunities for mHealth in behavioral medicine.  Several key points about these topics that were addressed at teh meeting are as follows:  

 Precision medicine and the role of behavioral science

  • There is value and great potential in capturing genomic information as part of behavioral science research.
  • The scientific community’s ability to test for genomic alterations has outpaced our ability to interpret and communicate test results.  This is true in risk prediction, treatment decision making, and behavioral medicine settings.
  • There are many unanswered questions about patients’ preferences for information about their genomic alterations, the consequences of uncertainty, communication strategies for sharing genomic testing results, and how patients make sense of the information they are given.  Behavioral science has a lot to contribute to each of these areas.

Opportunities for mHealth in behavioral medicine

  • mHealth provides unprecedented opportunities for data collection, intervention tailoring, and intervention delivery.  mHealth can be used to harness a virtual social network that can support an individual’s behavioral change.  mHealth tools can also be used to provide real-time feedback and guidance to individuals and their healthcare team.
  • Omada Health is an example of a private company that has successfully merged behavioral science with technology and design to support obesity-related chronic disease.
  • There was interest among meeting attendees in partnering with industry to develop evidence-based technology to support behavior change.  However, it is not always clear (or easy) to establish such partnerships.

-Research and evaluation are beginning to catch up with the technology; however, much of the technology and “health” apps are not evidence-based.

What do you see as the most pressing areas to address within the precision medicine or mHealth space relate to behavioral science research? 

Janet S. de Moor, PhD, MPH; Behavioral Scientist and Program Director

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