Digital Healthcare Interventions to Address the Secondary Health Effects Related to Social, Behavioral, and Economic Impact of COVID-19 (R01 – Clinical Trial Optional)

Program Description

NIMHD supports research to strengthen the healthcare response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and future public health emergencies, including pandemics. This announcement focuses on the role and impact of using digital health interventions to address access, reach, delivery, effectiveness, scalability, and sustainability of health assessments and interventions for secondary effects, for example behavioral health or self-management of chronic conditions, that are utilized during and following the pandemic. NIMHD’s interest involves vulnerable populations and those with health disparities who have experienced higher rates of cases and hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19. Additionally, they are at greater risks of exposure based on crowded or multi-family living conditions, public-facing jobs, and use of public transportation, among other factors.

The COVID-19 pandemic will result in behavioral, social, and economic changes that impact health and likely cause worsening of symptoms in individuals with pre-existing health conditions. The healthcare landscape has shifted dramatically to a rapid uptake of digital health technologies (e.g. mobile health, telemedicine/telehealth, health information technology, and wearable devices) to address health and disease management. These digital interventions offer the potential to bridge the treatment gap and provide evidence-based interventions to individuals currently unable to access treatments.

This initiative supports studies that optimize digital health interventions to address the secondary health effects related to the social, behavioral, or economic impact of COVID-19 across the lifespan. Studies should utilize existing infrastructure (e.g., evidence-based digital health platforms) to increase the efficiency of participant recruitment, data collection, and management. Proposals should leverage partnerships with digital health developers and existing well-established digital health delivery platforms so that the research follows a deployment-focused model of services. This initiative is not intended to support the development of novel digital health interventions.

High priority studies include:

  • interventions taking advantage of the unique functionality of mobile and wireless devices;
  • testing if the digital health intervention yields reductions in symptoms in those who exhibit significant symptoms and/or functional impairment at baseline;
  • utilizing software, devices, and systems that are interoperable with existing infrastructure;
  • collecting data via well-established assessments and measures and which leverage common data elements;
  • addressing known challenges with uptake and adherence/sustained use of technology-based approaches;
  • improving the accuracy and efficiency of assessment and the effectiveness and quality of intervention and service delivery;
  • increasing accommodations for individuals seeking screening, prevention, self-management, wellness behaviors and treatment;
  • refining and testing adaptive and just-in-time interventions that can be pushed out via mobile technology and based upon the individual’s current state;
  • utilizing electronic health record data to inform timing and targets for intervening.

NIH-designated U.S. populations experiencing health disparities include Blacks/African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, underserved rural populations, and sexual and gender minorities.

For the purpose of this FOA, vulnerable populations include the following people who are: residents of chronic care facilities, community-dwelling older adults, pregnant women, children, persons with cognitive impairment or dementia, homeless, incarcerated or involved with the criminal justice system, experiencing substance use disorder or severe mental illness, with visual, hearing, communication, or mobility impairment, and the uninsured. Other vulnerable groups specific to the current pandemic are medical personnel with direct patient care, other support staff, home health aides, as well as family and informal caregivers, emergency responders, and frontline workers in essential businesses or services.

NIH Guide No.: PAR-20-243

Page updated Jan. 12, 2024