Health disparities are a substantial burden to society in terms of healthcare costs, lost productivity, and general societal well-being. In 2015, NIMHD began a visioning process to create a scientific vision that will transform minority health and health disparities research. Thirty specific research strategies across the three pillars that guided the science visioning: methods and measurement, etiology, and interventions establish a new paradigm to stimulate research for improving minority health and closing the gaps in health disparities. The full list of research strategies is available as a PDF.
The visioning strategies are endorsed by the NIMHD Director, the National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and many in the extramural scientific community. The strategies have been incorporated into the upcoming NIH Strategic Plan for Minority Health and Health Disparities and will guide NIH’s research agenda to advance this field.
The American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) special issue, New Perspectives to Advance Minority Health and Health Disparities Research is a series of essays and editorials that lays out the comprehensive and transparent agenda for the field of health disparities research. The articles discuss new paradigms and strategies that will foster a harmonized health disparities research agenda at NIH, including consistent measures, and priority research questions.
The Scientific Vision Process
NIMHD solicited input from diverse voices, including researchers, medical professionals, community-based health groups, and members of the NIMHD Advisory Council, along with other stakeholders to create a framework for how best to achieve the goal of improving minority health and reducing health disparities. This was a multi-phase process.
- Phase 1: Gathering input on the current state of the science on minority health and health disparities
- Phase 2: Review Insights and Address Research Gaps, Challenges and Opportunities
- Phase 3: Disseminating the Science Vision
Phase 1: Gather input on the current state of the science on minority health and health disparities.
NIMHD asked the community to identify high-priority research areas to help fill knowledge gaps in the causes of health disparities, better measure health disparities, and determine what types of interventions could help eliminate health disparities. Experts from across NIH and members of the public provided insights in three foundational areas:
- Methods and Measures: Which current methods have proven best for studying health disparities, their drivers, causes, and solutions?
- Etiology: What existing models explain the causes, determinants, and influences of health and life course trajectories that result in health disparities?
- Interventions: What research, practice, and policy interventions have shown the greatest promise to reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities?
NIMHD received responses from hundreds of stakeholders and spent many hours compiling, summarizing, and analyzing those responses. Collecting this information can help NIMHD define a scientific vision to guide minority health and health disparities research over the next decade.
Phase 2: Review input and make recommendations to NIMHD
NIMHD-led working groups of researchers from different fields and members of stakeholder communities reviewed insights into the current state of the science that were collected during Phase 1. During workshops on the three foundational areas, the working groups helped define where NIMHD should go to advance the fields by addressing research gaps, challenges and opportunities. After the workshops, participants continued working with NIMHD staff to formulate recommendations for moving the field forward.
Workshop 1, April 2016: Methods and Measurement Science in Health Disparities
Goal: Evaluate the methods used to assess health disparities research and to identify the new types of methods, approaches, tools, and models needed to advance health disparities research.
Discussion and recommendations focused on the following scientific domains related to methods and measurement science:
- Indicators for measuring health disparities
- Methods for analyzing health determinants contributing to health disparities
- Evaluating health disparities research
- Health disparities research in the era of Big Data
Workshop 2: May 2016: Etiology and Interventions for Health Disparities Research
Goal: Identify the causes of health disparities and the most promising interventions to reduce or eliminate them.
Discussion and recommendations focused on the following areas related to etiology of health disparities:
- Social determinants
- Biological behavioral, and environmental mechanisms
- Health services
Discussion and recommendations focused on the following intervention domains related to intervention science for health disparities research:
- Intervention guiding principles
- Intervention approaches
- Intervention methods and evaluation
- Intention scalability (dissemination & implementation)
Phase III: Disseminating the Science Vision
Teams of scientists worked to develop a series of essays and editorials to lays out the comprehensive and transparent agenda for the field of health disparities research. The articles were published January 2019 in The American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) special issue, New Perspectives to Advance Minority Health and Health Disparities Research.
In addition, recommendations from the science visioning have been incorporated into the planning for the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan on Minority Health and Health Disparities. These findings will serve as a framework to guide NIMHD’s and NIH’s research agenda in the next decade.