Director's Messages

An Action Plan for Research To Achieve Health Equity in Clinical Preventive Services

After several years of work and collaboration, the ODP is excited to share the Federal Partners Meeting Report for the Pathways to Prevention (P2P) Workshop on Achieving Health Equity in Preventive Services. The report highlights opportunities for collaboration and resources that researchers and government agencies can use to address disparities in the use of clinical services for early detection and prevention of common chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. 

Chronic diseases are responsible for seven of every 10 deaths among Americans each year and account for 75% of the nation’s health spending. Many of these conditions can be prevented, delayed, or caught and treated early with evidence-based preventive services. Yet, even with improvements in insurance coverage and widely available guidelines for using these services, uptake is low in communities where disease burden is highest and such services are needed the most—among racial and ethnic minority groups, rural residents, and individuals of lower socioeconomic status. We need better data to understand the root causes of these disparities and to develop culturally-congruent recommendations to increase the use of preventive services.

The Federal Partners Meeting Report is the result of a 2-year P2P process used to identify and address gaps in research on important public health topics. It follows a June 2019 workshop organized by the ODP; National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD); National Cancer Institute (NCI); National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) to assess the scientific evidence on the use of clinical preventive services.

The workshop’s systematic evidence review, expert presentations, and public input guided an independent panel in developing 26 priorities for future research in the field of preventive services. However, it isn’t enough just to identify these research gaps; we need to develop and support strategies to fill them.

The workshop coordinators reached out to partners from across the federal government to help create an action plan. Representatives from organizations such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services met at the NIH on February 24, 2020, for the Federal Partners Meeting. Participants discussed opportunities for working together to tackle the panel’s recommendations, which included expanding research on integrating services and new delivery models, developing innovative methods, engaging communities, using systems approaches, and enhancing workforce development and training. The discussion also highlighted existing resources, including funding opportunity announcements, model interventions, and data repositories, that can be used by agencies and researchers to carry out the work.

The workshop team summarized the full discussion in the Federal Partners Meeting Report so members of the disease prevention community, like you, can build on these ideas and resources to help us move the field forward.

At the ODP, we are committed to working closely with our colleagues to promote a prevention research agenda that addresses the complex and multifaceted nature of health disparities. There is an urgent need to fill these research gaps because too many lives are unnecessarily lost when clinical preventive services are not accessed appropriately and efficiently by all Americans. Current projects that workshop co-sponsors are undertaking in this area include:

  • NIMHD continues its mission to lead scientific research to improve minority health and reduce health disparities. The Institute focuses on Americans burdened by disparities in health status and health care delivery, including racial and ethnic minorities, underserved rural populations, less privileged socioeconomic status populations, sexual and gender minorities, and other population groups subject to discrimination. NIMHD supports numerous research grants that include prevention, as well as other types of research. Examples of these initiatives include: Mechanisms of Disparities in Chronic Liver Diseases and Cancer; Mechanisms of Disparities in Etiology and Outcomes of Lung Cancer in the U.S.: The Role of Risk and Protective Factors; Improving Smoking Cessation Interventions among People Living with HIV; and Comprehensive Care for Adults with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus from Health Disparity Populations.
  • NCI is focusing on using implementation science concepts to achieve health equity. As such, more people who are interested in this topic will be included when organizing conferences and workshops. NCI is also building research capacity by providing relevant training, resources, tools, and funding opportunities, and working to improve partnerships to promote health equity. 
  • Grantees from the NHLBI-funded Disparities Elimination through Coordinated Interventions to Prevent and Control Heart and Lung Disease Risk (DECIPHeR) initiative will test implementation research strategies for optimally and sustainably delivering effective, evidence-based, multilevel interventions to reduce or eliminate cardiovascular and/or pulmonary health disparities in high-burden communities.

We hope this report and the other resources generated as part of the P2P workshop will inspire research institutions and government agencies to collaborate on training, support new research, and work with community partners to apply prevention and implementation strategies to eliminate health disparities. By working together to fill the evidence gaps around increasing the use of proven-effective clinical preventive services for everyone who needs them, we will enhance health equity, improve the lives of millions of individuals, and have a transformative impact on the health of our nation.