Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Using Systems Science Methodologies to Protect and Improve Child and Reproductive Population Health
Notice Number:

Key Dates

Release Date:

March 10, 2021

First Available Due Date:
June 05, 2021
Expiration Date:
May 08, 2024

Related Announcements

PA-20-185 - NIH Research Project Grant (Parent R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

Issued by

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

All applications to this funding opportunity announcement should fall within the mission of the Institutes/Centers. The following NIH Offices may co-fund applications assigned to those Institutes/Centers.

Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, Office of Disease Prevention (ODP)


The purpose of this Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) is to solicit applications to support multi-disciplinary scientific teams proposing research using systems science approaches to address persistent public health challenges. Systems science refers to multi-level methodologies addressing complex behavioral and social phenomena. This initiative encourages applications for both basic and applied research, including methodological and measurement development, with a focus on human behavioral and/or social science. This initiative also seeks to promote interdisciplinary collaboration among health researchers and experts in mathematical modelling.


Systems science is an interdisciplinary field comprising methodological approaches that address dynamic connections between a system’s structure and its behavior over time. Systems science methodologies is an umbrella term that refers to a variety of methodologies including, but not limited to, agent-based modeling, microsimulation, system dynamics modeling, network analysis, discrete event analysis, Markov modeling, econometric modeling, engineering methods, and a variety of other dynamic modeling and simulation approaches.

Systems science methodologies are valuable because they can address complex behavioral and social phenomena. These models and other novel analytic tools can be used to elucidate behavioral and social pathways and relationships and to assess population-level health policy and behavioral intervention options. By facilitating the modeling of social and behavioral determinants of health, systems science models advance scientific understanding of the underlying factors contributing to persistent public health problems.

Specific Interests

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

The mission of NICHD is to lead research and training to understand human development, improve reproductive health, enhance the lives of children and adolescents, and optimize abilities for all.

General topics of interest include basic and applied research on models of behavioral and social processes associated with health, disability, and developmental outcomes from pre-conception to adulthood. NICHD is particularly interested in models that focus primarily on computational, econometric, mathematical, or engineering methods to improve the measurement and modeling of the following topics:

  • Health disparities and the reduction of maternal and child morbidity and mortality;
  • Child, maternal, reproductive and population health models utilizing multi-level perspectives. Of particular interest are systems models of: 1) behavior and development in childhood and adolescence; 2) sexual behavior, and 3) contraceptive use from early adolescence through the reproductive years;
  • Models of the complex relationships among demographic, social, and environmental factors and their effects on child and maternal health;
  • Models that address complex social and behavioral factors affecting intellectual, behavioral and physical disability outcomes, rehabilitation outcomes, and long-term impacts of disability on individuals and families;
  • Complex models of developmental issues over the life course for example, models that link variations in childhood health and development and environmental context and exposure during childhood with health trajectories or disability in later life;
  • Models that address policy resistant health problems for example, modeling how community characteristics and processes interact with individual characteristics to contribute to risk of chronic diseases such as childhood obesity and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Models that address how macro-environmental factors interact with biological processes to impact eating, physical activity, and obesity outcomes.

Scientific topics of low priority to NICHD include: disease-specific processes and prevention that are central to the mission of other ICs.

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

NCI leads and supports research to advance scientific knowledge and help people live longer, healthier lives. NCI has a strong interest in primary prevention and in understanding the development, maintenance and improvement of multiple health behaviors associated with risk of cancer and with health disparities that emerge over the life course. Many of these behaviors have their roots in early development, childhood and adolescence. Because of the long latency of cancer and tracking of health behaviors over the life course, systems science can play a vital role in understanding the development of risk-related behavior over the life course and its consequences of cancer incidence and mortality, as well as modelling positive and negative consequences of programs, policies, and environments aimed at improving child health. NCI is interested in research proposals that address cancer risk factors and cancer incidence and mortality over the life course, including, but not limited to:

  • Models that address the complex interactions of diet, physical activity, sedentary behavior, sleep and/or obesity over the trajectory of the life course for children and adolescents.
  • Models that address how changes in cancer-related health behaviors in children and over the life course influence population-level cancer incidence and mortality. Diet, physical activity, sedentary behavior, sleep, smoking, alcohol use and sun-related behavior are examples of cancer risk-related behaviors that may arise in children and adolescents.
  • Models that address specific programs and policies, such as HPV vaccination, obesity prevention and their cancer-related consequences. Such models could explore how to optimize vaccination delivery and remediation of vaccine program failures as well as estimate long term effects on cancer incidence of primary prevention over the life course.
  • The above and other modelling efforts are encouraged to explore disparities and interactions between interventions and at-risk populations to better understand consequences of environments, programs and policies relevant to children and youth for health disparities as well as potential unintended consequences such as inadvertent increases in disparities over time.

Proposals should explicitly address the complex relationships between demographic, social, and environmental determinants of cancer-related health behaviors and physiological characteristics such as obesity. NCI is interested in models of diverse cancer risk-factors, but will give low priority to grants making little or no effort to link their results to population level cancer incidence and mortality.

Office of Disease Prevention (ODP)

The mission of the ODP is to improve public health by increasing the scope, quality, dissemination, and impact of prevention research supported by the NIH. The ODP is interested in co-funding research that uses systems science approaches to improve measurement and modeling related to:

  • Reducing risk factors associated with maternal and child morbidity and mortality;
  • Reducing health disparities;
  • Improving development and well-being across the life course;
  • Assessing the benefits and harms of disease prevention policies and interventions.

In addition, the ODP encourages applications to support projects led by early stage investigators. For more information about ODP strategic priorities, visit:

Application and Submission Information

This notice applies to due dates on or after June 5, 2021 and subsequent receipt dates through May 7, 2024.

Submit applications for this initiative using the following funding opportunity announcement (FOA) or any reissues of this announcement through the expiration date of this notice.

  • PA-20-185 NIH Research Project Grant (Parent R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide and the funding opportunity announcement used for submission must be followed, with the following additions:

  • For funding consideration, applicants must include NOT-HD-20-032 (without quotation marks) in the Agency Routing Identifier field (box 4B) of the SF424 R&R form. Applications without this information in box 4B will not be considered for this initiative.

Applications nonresponsive to terms of this NOSI will not be considered for the NOSI initiative.


Please direct all inquiries to the contacts in Section VII of the listed funding opportunity announcements with the following additions/substitutions:

Rebecca Clark
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
Telephone: 301-496-1175

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