APA recently submitted comments (PDF, 153KB) in response to the National Institutes of Health's Request for Information: Inviting Comments and Suggestions on the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan for COVID-19 Research. The draft strategic plan provides a framework for NIH's efforts to develop tools and approaches to better prevent, diagnose, and treat COVID-19. 

APA recommendations address the plan's goals for developing effective implementation models for preventive measures, including creating research programs for risk communication to explain the science underlying public health measures related to COVID-19 and future pandemics.

APA comments also respond to the plan's objectives to understand and address COVID-19-related health disparities and vulnerable populations. APA encourages the agency's support for research seeking to understand the mental health burdens that result from structural inequities attributed to policy, law, governance, and culture. The comments urge NIH to create a new rapid response research grant mechanism to advance the science of COVID-19 vaccine acceptance through grants that foster partnership among research entities, public health agencies, and community-based organizations. The comments further recommend funding of rapid grant studies that track immune responses as the vaccines are made available as well as the impacts of individual and community interventions that target stressors.

The APA response addresses the plan's objective to understand and address COVID-19 maternal health and pregnancy outcomes and its goal to understand and address age-specific factors in COVID-19 and encourages incorporation of behavioral and social factors into those efforts. The association also urges the NIH to invest in research examining the impact of COVID-19 on older minority and underserved populations. APA also recommends that NIH study the health impacts of the COVID-19-related pivot to distance learning and homeschooling. The association urges NIH to collaborate with the Department of Education's Institute for Education Sciences to develop or adapt measures to assess these various impacts.

Finally, responding to the plan's cross-cutting themes including minority health and health disparities, women's health, public health challenges across the lifespan, collaborative science, and data science, APA urges NIH to consider incentives for researchers willing to continue their careers in research and focus on COVID-specific topics. Incentivizing these researchers by making them eligible for programs such as the NIH Loan Repayment Program may go a long way toward protecting the pandemic-related research pipeline and expanding the relevant biomedical and behavioral research workforce, APA suggests.

The draft plan will be presented at the December meeting to the Advisory Committee to the NIH director. Before being released to the public, the strategic plan will need to receive clearance from the Department of Health and Human Services and final sign-off by NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and NIH Deputy Director Larry Tabak, DDS, PhD.

For more information, contact Angela L. Sharpe, MG.