Special Emphasis Notice (SEN): AHRQ Announces Interest in Priority Populations Research

Notice Number: NOT-HS-11-014

Key Dates
Release Date: April 13, 2011

Issued by
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) http://www.ahrq.gov


The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) mission is to improve the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care for all Americans.  AHRQ supports research that helps people make more informed decisions and improves the quality of health care services. Research at AHRQ is performed within Portfolios that encompass nearly every aspect of health care.  These research Portfolios include: Comparative Effectiveness, Patient Safety, Health Information Technology, Prevention/Care Management, Innovations and Emerging Issues, and Value Research. Portfolio information can be found at http://www.ahrq.gov/fund/portfolio.htm

AHRQ's research agenda is designed to be responsive to the needs of consumers, patients, clinicians and other providers, institutions, plans, purchasers, and public policymakers. The AHRQ Policy on the Inclusion of Priority Populations in Research (NOT-HS-03-010, see https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-HS-03-010.html) requires that priority populations be included in all AHRQ-supported research projects involving human subjects, unless a clear and compelling rationale and justification is provided that inclusion is inappropriate.  AHRQ's priority populations, specified by Congress in the Healthcare Research and Quality Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-129) include: women, children, racial and ethnic minorities, populations with special health care needs (chronic illness, disabilities, and end of life care needs), the elderly, low-income, inner-city, and rural populations.

Research on priority populations has been emphasized and encouraged by AHRQ, but research results lag in their ability to identify evidence-based solutions to improving healthcare safety, quality, efficiency and effectiveness.  For example, primary outcomes may not be adequately powered for subgroup analyses or recruitment strategies may not be designed to focus on and attain samples that are sufficient for subgroup analysis. Even if sufficient data are available, priority population analyses may not be reported unless statistically significant.  Studies may not be designed to meet the specific needs and challenges of priority populations, inhibited by issues such as small sample size or limited data available on subgroups and subpopulations.  

Research Areas of InterestWith this notice, AHRQ encourages grant applications that propose research that focuses on the health care for AHRQ priority populations with specific emphasis in the following areas (1) explaining disparities in health care and clinical practice; (2) implementation of research and interventions that aim to reduce disparities in priority populations and settings; (3) addressing known gaps in research dealing with priority populations; 4) development of methods to address the heterogeneity of priority populations, small sample sizes and to improve outcomes for priority populations in AHRQ sponsored research; 5) research on cross cutting issues involving multiple priority population groups and settings (for example, disabled children, minority women, rural maternal and child health, etc); and 6) development of innovative service delivery models for settings in which priority populations receive care.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to use relevant AHRQ data to identify gaps in the safety, quality, efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare for AHRQ’s priority populations. Examples of such data may be the National Healthcare Quality Report and the National Healthcare Disparities Report (http://www.ahrq.gov/qual/measurix.htm#quality), the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey, or MEPS (http://www.meps.ahrq.gov/mepsweb/) and the Healthcare Utilization Project, or HCUP (http://hcupnet.ahrq.gov/).   Applicants are also encouraged to study the implementation of AHRQ tools for improving quality and reducing disparities, and to use AHRQ-developed healthcare quality measures to assess the results of interventions for improvement.

AHRQ has a particular interest in understanding the “how” and “why” of intervention effectiveness or failure, and encourages applicants to study the context and implementation processes of interventions for improvement, and analyze their contributions to variations in effectiveness.   Where quality improvement approaches have not been demonstrated to be effective for AHRQ priority populations, applicants must demonstrate why and how they will modify existing generic evidence-based approaches to be effective for specific priority populations. 

Further guidance:

Use of Funding Mechanisms:  AHRQ will use its currently open Funding Opportunity Announcements for applications in this area.   Information about the grant application process, including e-grant applications can be found at http://www.ahrq.gov/fund/.

Application Submission.  With this notice, AHRQ is providing information about research priorities for issues across all research portfolios.  AHRQ will continue to provide regular updates of research priorities as research budget information becomes available. We encourage applicants to indicate in their applications that they are responding to this notice by including the Special Emphasis Notice title and number. We also encourage applicants to include a cover letter in their application package stating their interest in this SEN. Applications will be reviewed by AHRQ’s standing peer review study sections. Applicants are encouraged to consult the AHRQ website for all currently open AHRQ Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA). 


Applicants with questions are encouraged to contact AHRQ staff listed below. 

Cecilia Rivera Casale, Ph.D.
Senior Advisor for Minority Health
Agency for Health Care Research and Quality
540 Gaither Rd. Rm 2216
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: (301) 427 1547

Beth A. Collins Sharp, PhD, RN
Senior Advisor, Women's Health and Gender Research
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
 540 Gaither Road
Rockville, MD  20850

Denise Dougherty, Ph.D.
Senior Advisor, Child Health and Quality Improvement
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
540 Gaither Rd
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone 301-427-1868

Harvey A. Schwartz, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Senior Advisor, Priority Populations
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
John M Eisenberg Building
540 Gaither Road
Rockville, MD 20850


Weekly TOC for this Announcement
NIH Funding Opportunities and Notices

Office of Extramural Research (OER) - Home Page Office of Extramural
Research (OER)
  National Institutes of Health (NIH) - Home Page National Institutes of Health (NIH)
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20892
  Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) - Home Page Department of Health
and Human Services (HHS)
  USA.gov - Government Made Easy

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