Science Visioning

Health disparities are a substantial burden to society in terms of healthcare costs, lost productivity, and general societal well-being. Now is the right time to take stock of the state of the science and stimulate new strategies to close the gaps in health status among minorities and other underserved populations. NIMHD is in the process of creating a scientific vision that will inform a transformational research agenda for the next decade.

  • The Scientific Vision 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
  • Scientific Vision Purpose

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 is a multi-phase process:

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.

Methods and Measurement Science

Discussion and recommendations focused on the following scientific domains:

  • 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.

Etiology of Health Disparities

Discussion and recommendations focused on the following areas:

  • Social determinants
  • Biological behavioral, and environmental mechanisms
  • Lifecourse
  • Health services

Intervention Science for Health Disparities Research

Discussion and recommendations focused on the following intervention domains:

  • Intervention guiding principles
  • Intervention approaches
  • Intervention methods and evaluation
  • Intention scalability (dissemination & implementation)

Next Steps: Address Research Gaps, Challenges, and Opportunities

NIMHD plans to publish the results of the health disparities scientific vision initiative in a peer-reviewed publication in 2018. In addition, recommendations from the science visioning have been incorporated into the planning for the Trans-NIH Strategic Plan on Minority Health and Health Disparities. NIMHD also anticipates that workshop output will become the source of peer-reviewed, published papers that will continue to influence the field of health disparities research for years to come. These findings will serve as a framework to guide NIMHD’s research agenda in the next decade.