By Nathan Stinson Jr., Ph.D., M.D., M.P.H.
Director, Division of Community Health and Population Science
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities
To make greater advances in promoting health and preventing disease among populations experiencing health disparities, NIH launched the Community Partnerships to Advance Science for Society (ComPASS) Program. The program aims to put community organizations at the helm of research programs that will help accelerate discoveries in research to improve health equity across all populations. Traditionally, academic institutions have led research efforts with engagement from community partners. ComPASS, however, is novel because it’s transformative, and it has the potential to develop a new health equity research model for community-led, multisectoral structural intervention research across NIH and other federal agencies.
Why focus on structural interventions? What we’ve learned from decades of research on health disparities is that health inequities are deeply rooted in structures, systems and policies that create social and economic disadvantage. To accelerate progress toward reducing health disparities and advancing health equity, research efforts must focus directly and intentionally on the structural drivers of health disparities. By addressing structural determinants such as economic and social policies and resources that impact healthcare access, employment, housing and education, we can improve health, well-being and quality of life for all communities. Community organizations are vital to local structural systems due to their roles addressing structural determinants as well as their deep knowledge of the social needs, and the barriers and pathways to address those needs. By taking this community-led research approach, we hope to empower communities and researchers to work collaboratively as equal partners, in all phases of the research process.
ComPASS is composed of three main initiatives: The Community-Led, Health Equity Structural Interventions (CHESI), The ComPASS Coordination Center (CCC), and The Health Equity Research Hubs (Hubs).
The ComPASS program is currently accepting letters of intent (LOIs) for CHESI. CHESI represents a unique departure from the conventional model of health disparities research. Through the CHESI initiative, NIH seeks to realign the conventional power dynamic that has characterized the limited participation of community-based organizations in academic research by empowering these organizations to:
- Guide health disparities research decision-making
- Lead collaborative investigations into positive changes for policies, systems, programs, and practices
- Pursue their own research ambitions
- Collaborate with research partners of their choosing
- Shift expectations for what structural health intervention research can look like
At NIH, we hope to hear from organizations with good ideas and meaningful questions. Through this initiative, such organizations will have the opportunity to set the research agenda and serve as thought leaders in driving their projects of choice.
We Want to Hear from You
Are you a member of the biomedical or behavioral research community who works in or with community-based organizations dedicated to addressing health disparities? Are you aware of other community-based organizations with strong ideas and the passion to commit to leading a major health disparities research project? Share this unique opportunity with your colleagues and counterparts to advance health equity and change the landscape of the health disparities research field.
LOIs for CHESI must be submitted by November 18, 2022. Select organizations will be invited to submit full applications.
Learn more about this initiative and how your organization can drive tomorrow’s health disparities research: https://commonfund.nih.gov/sites/default/files/OTA-22-007.pdf.
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