Research Needs and Gaps

Stimulating disease prevention research is an important part of improving the health of all Americans. In order to do this, we need to know which areas require additional research. The activities and resources below identify prevention areas, services, programs, and policies where there are research needs and gaps.

Pathways to Prevention (P2P)

The P2P program uses a structured process to identify research gaps in a scientific area of broad public health importance and suggest ways to move the field forward. 

Insufficient Evidence

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) Insufficient Evidence (I) Statements

The USPSTF makes evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screening tests, counseling about healthy behaviors, and preventive medications. However, they often cannot make a recommendation for or against a service because of a lack of evidence. When this occurs, the USPSTF issues an insufficient evidence (I) Statement.

Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) Evidence Gaps and Insufficient Evidence Findings

The CPSTF provides evidence-based findings and recommendations about community preventive services, programs, and policies. Each Community Guide systematic review includes a list of critical evidence gaps that limit the CPSTF’s ability to answer questions about the intervention approach. If there is not enough evidence to determine whether an intervention is effective or not, the Task Force will issue an insufficient evidence (IE) finding, indicating a need for additional research in this area. IE findings can be used to help develop research proposals or funding announcements.

Healthy People 2030 Research Objectives

The Healthy People program sets data-driven national objectives to improve health and well-being over the next decade. Healthy People 2030 research objectives represent public health issues with a high health or economic burden or significant disparities between population groups that aren't yet associated with evidence-based interventions.

Research Priorities and Reports

USPSTF Annual Reports to Congress: Summary of High-Priority Research Gaps

The USPSTF Annual Report to Congress identifies evidence gaps and recommends priority areas for future research. These reports are meant to help researchers and research funders target their efforts, and take a collaborative approach to improving preventive health and health care.

Annual Report to Congress and to Agencies Related to the Work of the CPSTF

The CPSTF Annual Report to Congress identifies evidence gaps and recommends areas that deserve further research for community preventive services, programs, and policies. The report also outlines priorities for future efforts, and provides examples of how states, local communities, and worksites have used Task Force recommendations.

Closing Evidence Gaps in Clinical Prevention

This consensus study report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, evaluates evidence gaps in clinical prevention recommendations described by the USPSTF and other clinical practice guideline developers and presents a taxonomy of these evidence gaps for future use. The report aims to improve the coordination of efforts to communicate and close priority evidence gaps among funders and researchers.

Viewpoint: Aligning Prevention Evidence Gaps With Prevention Research

In this article, the USPSTF introduces a standardized template that will accompany each recommendation and I statement to communicate research gaps. This new approach was built on joint efforts by the USPSTF, ODP, NIH, and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to classify evidence gaps and on the Closing Evidence Gaps in Clinical Prevention consensus study report.

2020-2030 Strategic Plan for NIH Nutrition Research

The first NIH-wide strategic plan for nutrition research emphasizes cross-cutting, innovative opportunities to advance nutrition research across a wide range of areas, from basic science to experimental design to research training. These opportunities complement and enhance ongoing research efforts across NIH to improve health and to prevent or combat diseases and conditions affected by nutrition.