To advance the science of health disparities and advance health equity research, the NIH Common Fund launched the Community Partnerships to Advance Science for Society (ComPASS) Program. The goals of ComPASS are to 1) develop, share, and evaluate community-led health equity structural interventions that leverage partnerships across multiple sectors to reduce health disparities and 2) develop a new health equity research model for community-led, multisectoral structural intervention research across NIH and other federal agencies.
In the United States, health disparities remain a persistent challenge impacting racial and ethnic minorities and other disproportionately affected populations. There is a critical need to address the complex nature of minority health and health disparities using structural interventions. In general, structural interventions are defined as efforts that attempt to change the social, physical, economic, or political environments that may shape or constrain health behaviors and outcomes. They can also address social determinants of health (SDOH) such as economic instability, limited educational and employment opportunities, access to quality housing and healthy food, and lack of community resources. The ComPASS program provides an unprecedented opportunity to design innovative intervention projects that focus on SDOH for community-empowered research. The program will enable communities and researchers to work collaboratively as equal partners in all phases of the research process to enhance the quality of interventions and advance health disparities research. The intent of this research is to improve health outcomes in communities affected by health disparities and inform social policies, systems, and practices to achieve optimal health for all.
At the NIH, health disparities research and advancing health equity cuts across the missions of multiple Institutes, Centers, and Offices (ICOs). This Common Fund program will focus on health disparities research in a way no NIH ICO could achieve individually. Rather than tackling inequities one disease, organ system, or life stage at a time, ComPASS will develop an NIH-wide strategy to address structural factors that impact multiple dimensions of health.
ComPASS also seeks to increase diversity and inclusion in research by cultivating community trust and partnerships, building research capacity among the community and relevant partners, and enhancing community organization competitiveness for future funding. The program is synergistic with other federal initiatives to end structural racism and serves as a launch pad for future efforts to eliminate health disparities and advance health equity.
Three initiatives will be used to achieve the goals of the ComPASS program:
- The Community-Led, Health Equity Structural Interventions (CHESIs) using a three- phase approach will develop, implement, evaluate, and share community-led, health equity structural interventions in partnership with research organizations, by intervening upon social determinants of health that produce and perpetuate health disparities. Each project site will also work with community organizations to form local Health Equity Research Assemblies (HERAs) that will help shape the structural intervention.
- Phase I Intervention Planning, Development, and Partnership – Plan, build partnerships develop, and pilot community-led, health equity structural intervention research strategies.
- Phase II Intervention Implementation - Implement community-led, health equity structural intervention research strategies, as appropriate, as well as implement structural interventions.
- Phase III Intervention Assessment, Dissemination and Sustainability - Assess proximal health outcomes, share study results and promising approaches, as well as implement sustainability activity plans for community-led health equity structural interventions.
- The Health Equity Research Hubs (Hubs) will provide localized technical assistance and scientific support for the CHESIs, as well as partnership support, research capacity-building, and training designed in collaboration with the ComPASS Coordination Center.
- The ComPASS Coordination Center (CCC) will initiate ComPASS research activities and establish the National Health Equity Research Assembly (HERA). The National HERA will be comprised of an invited group of federal and non-federal members such as those in the transportation, housing, urban planning, and public health sectors to provide vital consultation on the development implementation and sustainability of the CHESI projects.
Through these initiatives, ComPASS program goals will be achieved by:
- Supporting community organizations and their research partners in co-creating research to evaluate CHESIs;
- Creating partnerships that span multiple sectors of society, both locally and nationally, that advise, guide, and sustain CHESIs;
- Building capacity in structural intervention research, enhancing the ability of community organizations and their research partners to implement and sustain useful findings from their research;
- Developing methods for capturing social determinants of health information and collecting and analyzing data to evaluate outcomes from the CHESIs; and
- Sharing promising approaches resulting from the CHESIs.
The NIH Common Fund is accepting applications for the ComPASS Health Equity Research Hubs. Letters of intent are due September 30, 2023. The application due date is October 31, 2023. For more details on how to apply, read the full Notice of Funding Opportunity. NIH staff also provided information for potential applicants in a Health Equity Research Hubs Technical Assistance Webinar.
Early Program Development
Common Fund's Listening Sessions To Inform The Development of ComPASS
In planning for ComPASS, the NIH Common Fund sought input from external communities via a series of listening sessions. See the summary of external feedback from various communities that informed the program development.
Concept Clearance Discussion at the January 2022 Council of Councils Meeting
On January 27, 2022 the NIH Council of Councils approved the concept for a new NIH Common Fund program Community Partnerships to Advance Science for Society (ComPASS). The archived videocast of the Council of Councils meeting is publicly available and can be viewed here (ComPASS discussion begins at 3:18:00). Slides and a brief write-up are also available.