Request for Information (RFI) Soliciting Input into the NIH Science Vision for Health Disparities Research

Notice Number: NOT-MD-15-006

Key Dates
Release Date: April 17, 2015
Response Date: July 31, 2015  

Related Announcements

Issued by
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)


This Notice is a time-sensitive Request for Information (RFI) soliciting input into a science vision to guide the development of the science of health disparities research for the next decade.


The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) is embarking on a scientific planning process in collaboration with other NIH Institutes and Centers to define a vision that will guide the development of the science of health disparities research for the next decade.  The NIMHD serves as the focal point at the NIH for the conduct of research, research training, capacity-building and outreach dissemination of minority health and health disparities.  In pursuit of its mission, the NIMHD promotes and supports research to improve minority health and eliminate health disparities, as well as plans, leads, coordinates, and assesses the efforts of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as a whole, to reduce and eliminate health disparities.  NIMHD employs a multi-faceted strategy to conduct and support research in basic, clinical, social, and behavioral sciences; disseminate information; promote research infrastructure and training; foster emerging programs; and extend its reach to health disparity communities.

The NIH is committed to ensuring that health disparities research efforts continue to build on technological advances and scientific breakthroughs.  To set a transformational agenda for health disparities science for the next decade, the NIMHD is leading a process of science visioning to (1) define a vision to guide the development of the science of health disparities research for the next decade, building on the current best knowledge, and (2) identify some of the key research areas that should be given high priority because knowledge in those areas might inform translational efforts that could have a significant impact on reducing health disparities.

As part of the science vision planning efforts, the NIH is seeking input from stakeholders and the general public through this RFI.

Information Requested

This RFI seeks conceptual input regarding the science vision for health disparities research to ensure that the NIMHD and the NIH remain a global leader in addressing health disparities.  In particular, comments are being sought regarding key research areas that might address the complexity of the multiple, interacting factors that often generate and perpetuate health disparities.   In addressing the charge to define a science vision that will guide the development of a transformational health disparities agenda, the NIMHD is exploring fundamental research questions to help shape the process such as:

I. How can the health disparities research community be better positioned to help address gaps in knowledge of: (1) the etiology of health disparities (2) measurement and analytical science methods; (3) intervention science; and (4) implementation and dissemination science? 

Examples of research questions important to the science vision process include:

1. What are the causes of health disparities?

  • What are the social, ecological, environmental and behavioral pathways, and the biological mechanisms that determinants of health operate upon to influence the health status of health disparity populations?
  • How do different health determinants interact to produce health disparities? How can the complexity be captured while producing scientific information useful to guide policies and practice?

2. What are the best methods and metrics to study health disparities, their causes and promising solutions?  What measures, analytic approaches and other methods will advance health disparities science?

  • How should health disparities be measured- in general, in physical health, in mental/psychosocial health, and in social health and wellbeing? 
  • Who should be the “reference” population in determining health disparities?  Who should be compared with whom, to measure health disparities?  Should the criteria change over time in relation to demographic and contextual changes and if so, how?
  • What analytic approaches and other research methods can advance health disparities research?
  • What methods should be used to evaluate the success of a health disparity intervention (at the level of policy, practice, or community) given the challenges often faced? 
  • How can resilience be captured in studying determinants of health and health disparities?
  • How can we leverage Big Data (i.e., a plethora of data already collected by other institutions) to determine the causes of health disparities and the pathways and mechanisms through which they operate.
  • How can we apply a population health systems approach to facilitate an understanding of the etiology of health disparities?

3. What practice and policy interventions show the greatest promise to reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities? What new knowledge is needed to inform effective interventions to address health disparities?

  • What scientific research areas are most crucial to study in order to inform pressing practice and policy questions addressing health disparities?
  • What are promising interventions for addressing health disparities affecting populations of different ages? 
  • What are the periods in the life cycle, timeframes or entry points along developmental trajectories that appear most promising as targets for interventions addressing health disparities across the life course?
  • How can community-based studies maximize rigor without losing community acceptance?  How can communities and other relevant stakeholders be involved in the design of interventions to ensure acceptability and eventual implementation of successful interventions?
  • What approaches are needed to produce scientifically sound evidence that can be used to inform effective policy?

4. What are the dissemination and implementation science approaches that will lead to effective practice and sustained policy intervention to reduce and eventually eliminate health disparities?

  • What criteria should be used to determine whether a health disparities intervention is ready for dissemination and implementation? Can we develop systematic approaches for assessing “Implementation Readiness” of biomedical knowledge and interventions?
  • How do we ensure that interventions are tailored to the needs of various health disparity populations, while maintaining adequate fidelity of the intervention to a tested model?
  • What novel business models can be used to inform health disparities intervention development, implementation (including quality improvement to achieve sustainability and reproducibility), and dissemination?
  • How can we effectively disseminate scientific findings to communities, policymakers and other stakeholders?

II. These fundamental research questions will serve as the pillars that will help to shape the development of the science vision.  To help inform the process your comments can include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Current science advances that are of the most or least value to the health disparities research community (including basic, biomedical, behavioral, clinical and translational science, population health, health services and science of community engagement); and any promising scientific disciplines that will be needed to support the evolving science.
  • Current science advances, infrastructure or resources that are of most or least value to the community, including patients and population subgroups that will be needed to ensure the translation, dissemination and implementation of health disparities research.
  • Current science advances that are of most or least value to health professionals and policy professionals that will be needed to leverage the data and knowledge into effective practice and policy.

How to Submit a Response

Responses to this RFI must be submitted electronically to

Responses will be accepted through July 31, 2015. Responses to this RFI are voluntary. Please do not include any proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information in your response.  The NIH will use the information submitted in response to this RFI at its discretion and will not provide comments to any responder's submission. The collected information will be reviewed by NIH staff, may appear in reports, and may be shared publicly on an NIH website. The Government reserves the right to use any non-proprietary technical information in summaries of the state of the science, and any resultant solicitation(s). The NIH may use the information gathered by this RFI to inform the development of future funding opportunity announcements. This RFI is for information and planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or individual NIH Institutes and Centers. No basis for claims against the U.S. Government shall arise as a result of a response to this request for information or from the Government’s use of such information


Please direct all inquiries to:

Irene Dankwa-Mullan MD MPH
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
Telephone: 301-402-1366