Request for Information (RFI): Soliciting Input for the Tribal Health Research Office (THRO) Strategic Plan (FY 2018-2022)

Notice Number: NOT-OD-18-110

Key Dates
Release Date: December 4, 2017
Response Date: February 4, 2018

Related Announcements

Issued by
Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, Tribal Health Research Office (THRO)


The purpose of this Request for Information (RFI) is to invite comments and suggestions on the first National Institutes of Health (NIH) Tribal Health Research Office (THRO) Strategic Plan. The THRO is publishing this Notice to solicit input from its stakeholders, including members of the scientific, tribal, advocacy, and patient communities, basic, clinical, and translational scientists, as well as other interested members of the public, on topics under consideration for the strategic plan. 


In December 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Tribal Consultation Policy (TCP) (see (link is external)). The TCP states that before any HHS action is taken that will significantly affect Indian Tribes, consultation with Indian Tribes will occur to the extent practicable and permitted by law. The policy calls on the HHS operating staff and divisions to have an accountable process, as defined in Section 8 and 9 of the TCP, to ensure meaningful and timely input by Indian Tribes in the development of policies that have tribal implications.

The NIH issued agency wide guidance on the implementation of the HHS Tribal Consultation policy in 2014. In 2015, the NIH established the THRO to coordinate tribal health research-related activities across the agency to effectively serve tribal nations and individuals. The THRO fulfills a vital coordinating and planning role as it works with NIH Institutes and Centers to leverage resources, develop initiatives, and formulate a strategic plan to support tribal health research.
Please see for more information on the THRO mission.

Information Requested

Please provide feedback on five strategic priorities under consideration for the first THRO Strategic Plan. These themes are intended to stimulate new research areas, priorities, and approaches to help put science to work to improve the health of tribal communities.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) seeks to improve, promote and strengthen communication between NIH and American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities, as well as communication among its Institutes, Centers and Offices (ICOs), on Indigenous health research and discoveries. The development of culturally-driven practice and research is vital to improve AI/AN health, build trust in the relationships between NIH and AI/AN communities, and facilitate further integration and collaboration among the AI/AN communities and the NIH ICOs as they develop research that will be accepted by and useful to AI/AN communities.

  • Strategic Priority 1 - Enhance Communication and Coordination: Greatly increase the bidirectional flow of information to and from tribal communities, and the NIH ICOs, and other relevant stakeholders.

Strategic Objective 1.1: Promote a continuous dialogue with the NIH Tribal Advisory Committee (TAC) about NIH research activities and information related to promoting the health of AI/AN communities.

Strategic Objective 1.2: Promote dialogue with tribal communities, tribal leaders, and tribal-serving organizations about NIH research activities and information related to promoting the health of AI/AN communities. 

Strategic Objective 1.3: Promote dialogue with tribal communities, and tribal leaders, tribal-serving organizations about the gaps in research for AI/AN populations to better direct NIH research activities.

Strategic Objective 1.4: Enhance internal trans-NIH communication to coordinate information about AI/AN health needs and ICO research, interests, and activities.

Strategic Objective 1.5: Increase trans-NIH communication and interactions with the broader scientific community about AI/AN health needs and ICO research, interests, and activities.

  • Strategic Priority 2 - Build Research Capacity: Coordinate efforts to increase research capacity in AI/AN communities at all levels, including but not limited to e.g., grant writing, professional development and the amount of research conducted. The ultimate goal is to build a strong, coordinated community of AI/AN researchers and expand scientific knowledge to improve the health of AI/AN communities.

Strategic Objective 2.1: Increase support for research that acknowledges the diverse range of expertise within AI/AN tribal organizations, tribal colleges, and AI/AN researchers.

Strategic Objective 2.2: Support development of research methods and measures that respect AI/AN diversity through: supporting research important to AI/AN communities; targeting research outcomes relevant to AI/AN communities; promoting flexible measurement approaches and assessment tools; identifying research barriers and developing models to address those barriers; supporting research training opportunities to build a research pipeline from high school through post-graduate training and employment.

Strategic Objective 2.3: Support an inter-agency emphasis and increase the diversity of the NIH research portfolio for the AI/AN populations and tribal community, that recognizes the importance of developing greater capacity or working with AI/AN communities synergizing existing NIH programming and strengths.

  • Strategic Priority 3 - Expand Research: Diversify the NIH research portfolio directed at health issues in tribal communities. Building research must go beyond the investigators and look to the portfolio of the agency. This will mean not only an examination of the existing research portfolio in American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities, but also an examination – and subsequent intentional action – to address those gaps in the portfolio to explore emerging and increasing areas of research that are important to improving the health of these communities.

Strategic Objective 3.1: To expand biomedical research in AI/AN communities, it will be critical to develop a comprehensive understanding of the challenges, historical context, cultural appropriateness, and the need to enhance existing research activities, as well as to create new opportunities for research in tribal communities across the country.

Strategic Objective 3.2: The representation of AI/AN investigators in the NIH principal investigator pool is very small; less than 1% in a significant proportion of National Institutes of Health (NIH) research. Similarly, the number of NIH-sponsored basic, clinical, behavioral, and translational research projects focused on AI/AN health. The NIH must develop internal and external systems and programs to develop AI/AN scientists to be competitive in biomedical research and be able to track progress at the NIH.

  • Strategic Priority 4 - Evaluate Progress: Establish a set of mutually agreeable measure that allows stakeholders to determine if, and to what degree, Tribal Health Research Office (THRO) is successful in achieving strategic priorities and objectives.

Strategic Objective 4.1: Develop processes and metrics for evaluating progress on strategic objectives. An example of metrics for the strategic priority of enhancing communication and coordination may include monitoring key web performance indicators to measure and analyze improvements made on the THRO website, Facebook and Twitter posts. Additionally, evaluating the effectiveness of NIH-funded programs in AI/AN communities and efforts to recruit and retain AI/AN trainees, could be used as critical indicators of progress.

Strategic Objective 4.2: Provide means by which tribal leaders and organizations can provide feedback and input to the evaluation process, using metrics established by the THRO and/or metrics relevant to AI/AN communities.
Strategic Objective 4.3:  Increase the NIH staff engagement in training and meeting to enhance their understanding of issues important to AI/AN research. An example of an important and existing mechanism to achieve this goal is to allow NIH staff to attend and participate in Tribal Advisory Committee meetings on the NIH research campus.

  • Strategic Priority 5 – Address cross-cutting areas of Cultural Competency and Community Engagement: Ensure that the NIH employs a consistent, respectful approach when collaborating with tribal communities to achieve each of the previous four strategic priorities.

Strategic Objective 5.1: The NIH will strive to foster and realize a more inclusive and equitable partnership with AI/AN communities by enhancing cultural respect among the NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices (ICOs), as well as through the extramural research enterprise. Enhancement of cultural competency throughout the NIH and increased AI/AN community engagement are fundamental for creating rich and optimal conditions for biomedical research in and for indigenous communities to improve health through research.

For each of the five strategic priorities described above (enhancing communication and coordination, building research capacity, expanding research, evaluating progress, and addressing cross-cutting areas of cultural competency and community engagement), we invite input on the most important directives and the most compelling questions to drive innovation in tribal health research for the next 5 years and beyond.

We are seeking input from our research community and particularly American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) community representatives and members on what they can imagine as the greatest achievements for tribal health research activity and development over the next 5 years. We seek your input as we endeavor to push the boundaries of community input to the identification of knowledge gaps, inter-agency collaboration, and growth of the Trial Health Research Office (THRO).
Within the five strategic priorities, we invite your comments in the following areas:

  • What are ways that the scope of each theme might be expanded or more narrowly focused to address the most important areas in research on tribal health?
  • What topics would you recommend adding to the list of strategic priorities for research on tribal health?
  • What big idea or audacious goal to improve tribal health should be pursued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)?
  • Where do gaps in knowledge exist?
  • What are challenges that the NIH should be aware of when engaging tribal communities for research?

How to Submit a Response:

Responses no longer than 300 words should be submitted at by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on February 4, 2018. You will see an electronic confirmation acknowledging receipt of your response. All submissions will be considered but will not be confidential.
Responses to this RFI are voluntary. Do not include any proprietary, classified, confidential, trade secret, or sensitive information in your response. The responses will be reviewed by NIH staff, and individual feedback will not be provided to any responder. The Government will use the information submitted in response to this RFI at its discretion. The Government reserves the right to use any submitted information on public NIH websites, in reports, in summaries of the state of the science, in any possible resultant solicitation(s), grant(s), or cooperative agreement(s), or in the development of future funding opportunity announcements.
This RFI is for information and planning purposes only and shall not be construed as a solicitation, grant, or cooperative agreement, or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government, the NIH, or individual NIH Institutes and Centers to provide support for any ideas identified in response to it. The Government will not pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for the Government’s use of such information. 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:
Tribal Health Research Office
Telephone: 301-402-9852