NIH Minority Health Institute Moves Ahead on Science Visioning of Health Disparities

At the June 9 meeting of National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NACMHD), outgoing Acting Director Yvonne Maddox updated the Council on the Institute’s Science Visioning process for health disparities research.  NIH Deputy Director Larry Tabak will serve as the Institute’s Acting Director until newly appointed director Eliseo Perez-Stable’s arrival in September.

To initiate the process, the Institute released a request for information in April (see Update, May 4, 2015).  Maddox reported that a trans-NIH Science Vision Advisory Group had been appointed and working groups are being established. The working groups will hold discussion forums around areas of science “to establish foundational concepts for advancing the science of health disparities research.”  The trans-NIH advisory group is populated by senior NIH leadership and led by Irene Dankwa-Mullan, Acting Deputy Director, NIMHD Division of Extramural Scientific Programs.

Maddox explained that in order to have a strategic plan, it was necessary to have a vision of where the research is going.  To that end, the NIH is looking at this research, what it is, how you do it, and who should be engaged.

She reported that four pillars for the visioning process have been identified: (1) etiology of health disparities, pathways, mechanisms, and models; (2) measurements and analytic approaches; (3) intervention science; and (4) implementation and dissemination science.

The expected outcomes and scientific products from the exercise include:

  • Creation of a working definition for the discipline of health disparities science;
  • Identification of fundamental principles for advancing the understanding of the complex role of health determinants in health disparities;
  • Establishment of foundational concepts based on the review of the research questions identified under the four pillars;
  • Identification of scientific areas of opportunity to build the science with the potential for transformational and translational impact (e.g., cross-disciplinary teams, infrastructure, resources, tools, training and capacity-building and it needs to enable and support the transformational research across the key areas identified).

Following is a timeline for the visioning process:

June – September 2015 – discussion forums with external scientific community and the request for information published on scientific topic areas for public input and recommendations.

September – October 2015 – summary white papers will be drafted by the working group co-chairs and presented at the NAMCHD.

December 2015 – convene larger groups of diverse stakeholders around topic areas to refine ideas and identify scientific areas of opportunity to mature the field.

January 2016 – issue a science vision statement and core principles along with a working definition for the disciplines of health disparities science established.

January – March 2016 – publish the Health Disparities Science Vision in a leading scientific journal and disseminate to stakeholders.

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