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Update, opportunities from NIA's Office of Special Populations

Carl HILL [Former NIA Staff],
Office of Special Populations (OSP).

Now that we’re all back to work or back to school with the end of summer, I’d like to update you on some of the recent activities of NIA’s Office of Special Populations. We’re looking forward to a fall of funding opportunities and continued connections with you all to promote and support health disparities research related to aging.

The 2017 Butler-Williams Scholars Program was a huge success! More than 50 early-career investigators were accepted to this year’s program. In late July, they traveled to the NIH campus to hear tips on developing grant applications and to discuss best practices in conducting rigorous aging research. This year’s class was very exciting, because of their energy and dedication to pursuing aging research. You can follow the 2017 Butler-Williams Scholars on Twitter at #BWSCholars2017 as they seek to become NIA-supported investigators and leaders in various aging research fields. We want to thank the John A. Hartford Foundation/Wake Forest University for its support of the B-W Scholars and the Alzheimer’s Association for sponsoring ancillary activities associated with this year’s program.

Butler-Williams Scholars Program alumni organized and participated in a professional development panel session during the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics World Congress in San Francisco. Kudos to all of our Butler-Williams Scholars, past and present, for their spirit and keeping the momentum moving!

Research applications earn awards

The NIA Health Disparities Research Framework continues to serve as an anchor for stimulating health disparities research related to aging. We recently collaborated with colleagues at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research to publish a perspective on oral health disparities.

As we noted in a previous blog, the Office of Special Populations teamed with the NIA Division of Aging Biology and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to develop the funding opportunity announcement (FOA), PA-17-164 Aging Biology Research to Address Health Disparities. This FOA focuses on the biological level of analysis of the Framework and stimulated research supplement proposals on cellular, physiological, and genetic processes that enable the consequences of harsh environmental conditions to become biologically embedded. NIA and NIMHD have just made the first six awards in response to this FOA, which is no longer active. Projects range from tests of stress/social adversity on multiple biomarkers of accelerated biological aging to the development of a social stress model to investigate the effect of psychological stress in aged mice on inflammation and control of tuberculosis infection. We look forward to results from these innovative research projects!

NIA also continues to encourage applications from a vast number of research disciplines for “PAR-15-349 Health Disparities and Alzheimer’s Disease (R01)” and “PAR-15-350 Emerging Directions for Addressing Health Disparities in Alzheimer’s Disease (R03)”. Both FOAs invite research applications for health disparities research on Alzheimer’s Disease in diverse populations. To date, NIA has supported over 30 research applications from these FOAs. During the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC), I had an opportunity to highlight a few of these awards and to co-chair—along with AAIC Scientific Program Committee Co-Chair Dr. Rachel Whitmer—a panel session devoted to introducing projects supported by these FOAs. Check out my comments during AAIC about the Framework and the work of our NIA awardees who are responding with rigorous health disparities research related to Alzheimer’s disease.

Activities on the horizon

Looking ahead, we’re excited to hold the 2017 NIA Director’s Regional Meeting on November 8, 2017. It will take place in the Nighthorse Campbell Native Health Building on the University of Colorado, Denver Anschutz Medical Campus. NIA senior staff and division directors will be on hand to provide information on NIA research and training resources, technical assistance on grant writing, and advice on the design of new research proposals. You can register for this NIA outreach activity here.

If you are planning to attend the 2017 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting in Atlanta, I hope you’ll check out the activities of its Aging and Public Health Section. A session on Wednesday, November 8, at 10:30 a.m. will highlight the community based participatory research by some of the investigators at the NIA-funded Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research.

I will also be leading a panel session at the Research Centers in Minority Institutions meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, October 30, in Washington, D.C. I’ll be joined by investigators in aging research who are using the NIA Disparities Framework to conduct health disparities research on the influence of stress/resilience to understand health disparities in the aging population, the influence of environmental and sociocultural factors on health disparities related to Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular health disparities among older adults.

I hope you’ll join us in Denver, Atlanta, or Washington to discuss NIA’s resources and hear about aging research from our awardees!