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Health Disparities Research at NIA

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NIA seeks to understand the environmental, sociocultural, behavioral, and biological drivers of health inequities and disparities related to aging and diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. We support research to develop strategies for the improvement of health among midlife and older adults in underrepresented groups who experience health inequities or disparities. These priorities are outlined in NIA’s strategic directions for health disparities research and reflected within NIA’s Health Disparities Research Framework.

Learn about NIA-funded research on health disparities:

NIA Research on Health Disparities

Many complex and interconnected factors can affect older adults’ health and quality of life. To develop and implement effective interventions to address health disparities among various populations, NIA supports and conducts research to:

  • Identify and understand environmental, social, cultural, behavioral, and biological factors that create and sustain health disparities among older adults.
  • Develop strategies to promote active life expectancy and improve the health status of older adults in diverse populations.
  • Develop and implement strategies to increase inclusion of underrepresented populations in aging research.
  • Support research on women’s health, including studies of how sex and gender influence aging processes and outcomes.

Explore NIA’s health disparities research resources below:

  • Advancing Diversity in Clinical Trials

    Recruiting a diverse range of clinical trial participants — including people of different races, ethnicities, genders, and ages — is crucial to better addressing and overcoming disparities in health and well-being.

Diversity Among Participants in NIA-Funded Clinical Research

One of the biggest hurdles in advancing research is recruitment and retention of clinical study and trial participants, particularly those from underrepresented populations. NIA seeks to engage a more diverse range of older adults for the many clinical trials and studies it conducts and supports, including prevention and intervention trials on Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

  • NIA National Strategy for the Recruitment and Participation in Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Clinical Research: As part of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, NIA intensified efforts to outline practical, proactive approaches to help researchers recruit and retain diverse volunteers for a growing number of studies in Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Developed with the Alzheimer’s Association and other stakeholders, the National Strategy focuses on four overarching themes: increasing awareness and engagement nationally, building and improving capacity and infrastructure at study sites, engaging local communities and support participants, and developing an applied science of recruitment.
  • Clinical Research Operations and Management System (CROMS): This system provides the capability to track, report, and manage NIA grantee clinical research data — including participant enrollment in supported studies — and other scientific portfolio activities in real time. CROMS is enabling NIA and its funded investigators to intervene early to understand and assist with enrollment challenges and support recruitment and retention of underrepresented populations in Alzheimer’s and related dementias research.
  • Outreach Pro: This online research tool aims to increase participation by traditionally underrepresented populations in clinical trials and studies on Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Outreach Pro enables those involved with leading clinical research to create and customize participant recruitment communications such as websites, handouts, videos, and social media posts.
  • Alzheimer’s & Dementia Outreach, Recruitment & Engagement (ADORE): This repository is a searchable collection of resources on topics related to the engagement, recruitment, and retention of diverse participants in dementia clinical trials and studies. Researchers, community advocates, and study coordinators can search the ADORE database to find materials and strategies to help recruit participants.

NIH-Wide Initiatives Into Improving Health Disparities Research

NIA also participates in NIH-wide health disparities research initiatives including:

  • NIH Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities initiative: The goal of this initiative is to build long-lasting partnerships in communities hardest hit by COVID-19, as well as to improve diversity and inclusion in our research response to this pandemic.
  • Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative: This NIH initiative was developed to speed innovation in the development, commercialization, and implementation of technologies for COVID-19 testing. NIA co-led the Rapid Diagnostic Accelerator for Underrepresented Populations (RADxUP) funding opportunity announcements, which are focused on COVID-19 vulnerable populations. NIA also co-led NIH efforts to strengthen data collection on COVID-19 to rapidly assess the needs and impact of COVID-19 across different population groups, particularly vulnerable populations. Learn more about NIA’s support of the RADx initiative.
  • NIH Inclusion Across the Lifespan policy: NIA has played a leadership role in guiding this policy and convening biannual workshops to support updating and implementing this policy in clinical research. The policy mandates that diverse participants of all ages be included in human research, particularly children, older adults, and underrepresented/underserved populations, unless there is a scientific or ethical reason for exclusion of any age category. These groups have specific and unique health issues that must be examined as we study new interventions that ultimately inform health care.
  • UNITE: NIA strongly supports UNITE, NIH’s initiative to end structural racism and racial inequities in biomedical and behavioral research. A collaborative, NIH-wide effort, UNITE is designed to establish an equitable and civil culture within the biomedical research enterprise and to reduce barriers to racial equity in the biomedical research workforce. Learn more from the NIH UNITE Progress Report.

Read more about NIH’s commitment to health equity research and the different scientific workforce programs at NIA.

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