Category Research Programs and Funding Opportunities   Show all

  • Community Organizations Lead Structural Interventions Research with Novel NIH Initiative

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    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:

  • NIH FIRST: Strengthening Inclusive Excellence in Biomedical Research

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    Posted on

    Co-authored by
    Norman E. Sharpless, M.D., Former Director, National Cancer Institute
    Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

    NIMHD Director Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., and National Cancer Institute Director Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, M.D., discuss the Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) initiative. This NIH Common Fund program aims to enhance and maintain culture of inclusive excellence in the biomedical research community. Drs. Pérez-Stable and Sharpless share information about NIH’s commitment to this program, the first set of awards, and the final request for applications

    Year after year, the number of students from historically underrepresented groups that participate in biomedical research training has slowly increased. Yet today, individuals from underrepresented groups still remain much less likely to be hired as independently funded faculty researchers. This gap is untenable if science is to thrive in the future. NIH is committed to supporting institutions and programs to change this trajectory.

    In September 2021, NIH announced the initial set of awards in the Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) program. FIRST funds and supports institutions to recruit diverse cohorts of new faculty and implement and sustain cultures of inclusive excellence where these faculty can thrive, excel, and become independently funded investigators. NIH expects to announce a second set of FIRST awards this summer.

    FIRST has a target budget of $241 million over 9 years, subject to the availability of funds. The NIH Common Fund leads in managing this NIH-wide program, but there is also robust engagement by others across NIH. The NIH Scientific Workforce Diversity Office, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke all collaborate in managing FIRST.

    Our institutes, NCI and NIMHD, are proud to administer the program. NCI is managing the FIRST Faculty Cohort awards and NIMHD is managing the FIRST Coordination and Evaluation Center.

    We spoke to the inaugural class of awardees during a kickoff meeting in October 2021. This was a rewarding moment that reinforced what we consistently have seen, heard, and felt from the start—a deep commitment to this program from all involved. Issuing these awards was momentous, not only for the institutions that received the highly competitive awards, but also for many at NIH who have worked tirelessly to design and develop the program over the past few years.

    Researchers representing the institutions that received the six cohort awards and the Coordination and Evaluation Center award attended the kickoff meeting. Initially, we planned to issue only four cohort awards. But, in response to the many compelling applications we received, the NIH Common Fund and a dozen NIH institutes and centers agreed to contribute additional funds, which allowed us to expand the FIRST Cohort. This was no small feat, and it signals the tremendous commitment to this program across NIH.

    At NIMHD and NCI, we fully support the purpose, goals, and objectives of the FIRST program. These align with

    • NIMHD’s mission and the NIMHD director’s vision to advance the science of minority health and health disparities, which includes strengthening the diversity of the research workforce and building capacity in Minority Serving Institutions
    • NCI programs, such as its flagship diversity training program—the Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE)—and new efforts through the NCI Equity and Inclusion Program
    • The NIH UNITE Initiative, which seeks to establish an equitable and civil culture within the biomedical research enterprise and reduce barriers to racial equity in the biomedical research workforce

    We are genuinely pleased with the extramural community’s fervor for FIRST, which has continued to build since the program’s launch in December 2020. Strong interest in FIRST yielded a highly competitive set of applications. It was impressive to see such an array of biomedical research areas represented in the applications and in the programs that received cohort awards.

    The institutions receiving awards plan to hire faculty in areas from cardiovascular disease to environmental studies, infection biology to cancer, mental health to health disparities, and more. This breadth demonstrates the commitment of extramural biomedical research institutions to build a workforce that genuinely reflects our nation and that cultivates inclusiveness so faculty can excel.

    The FIRST program recently issued its third and final cohort funding announcement, RFA-RM-22-008, with applications due July 12, 2022. We strongly encourage the research community to apply and to sustain the enthusiasm you have shown for FIRST.

    This is vitally important work. It is critical that we diversify the biomedical workforce and strengthen inclusiveness at our institutions.

    Our experience launching FIRST gives us a deep optimism for the transformation this program will foster at institutions receiving awards and throughout the extramural research community. Our continued commitment, and the commitment of so many others at NIH to FIRST, is full and unequivocal.