Contextual analysis and the success of translational research

Transl Behav Med. 2016 Mar;6(1):160-6. doi: 10.1007/s13142-015-0362-8.


The success of translational research can ultimately be judged by the degree to which it reduces the incidence and prevalence of psychological, behavioral, and physical disorders and the major factors influencing them. In our view, we currently place insufficient emphasis on assessing our impact on the social determinants of disorders. As a result, we are failing to affect the incidence and prevalence of critical disorders. Moreover, translational research fails to take into account the full range of interventions that could significantly reduce the incidence and prevalence of our most pressing disorders. These include policy changes, media, and broad cultural change movements. In this paper, we discuss the momentous achievements the tobacco prevention movement made over the last half-century, describe how the lessons gleaned from this success can apply to other prevention efforts, and contrast this success with progress made in battling other major public health concerns. We call for an expansion of the translational research agenda to develop and evaluate broader and more comprehensive strategies to affect well-being in entire populations.

Keywords: Behavioral disorders; Contextual analysis; Cultural change; Policy; Social structure; Translational research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Culture
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Public Health / methods
  • Research Design
  • Translational Medical Research / methods*