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NICHD Strive Initiative Workshop Sessions Wrap Up

October 20, 2021

NICHD Strive Initiative Workshop Sessions Wrap Up  

October 20, 2021 

As previously reported by FABBS, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Office of Health Equity has launched STrategies to EnRich Inclusion and AchieVe Equity (STRIVE), a new initiative led by three committees focusing on the following themes: (1) ensuring equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in NICHD’s workforce; (2) enhancing opportunities for EDI in the broader scientific workforce, and (3) planning, conducting, and supporting health disparities research. The initiative aims to shape future endeavors of the institute by building an action plan based on the three themes that will complement the NICHD Strategic Plan and guide the direction of NICHD’s activities and policies for the next five years. 

A five-part workshop series wrapped up on October 7th; see the agendas and recordings of each of the workshops here. Sessions featured panelists including NICHD population researchers, healthcare and advocacy organization leaders, as well as clinicians and health care providers, to discuss opportunities for improvement and innovative strategies to mitigate disparities in populations within NICHD’s portfolio.  

The workshops included in-depth discussions and called for the need for more studies with population-level approaches, the need for more funding to achieve localized, large population sizes, with an eye on the disaggregation of data, to justifiably represent a community.  

 Valerie Maholmes, Ph.D., CAS, Chief, Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch, NICHD, identified some key takeaways: 

  • “Inherent in every community, is the ability for people to solve their own problems.” This called for private investigators to develop studies with communities – to address what matters most to them. Leverage a partnership with the community members – as co-writers and co-planners during the research planning process.  
  • “The one size fits all theory does not work.” We need new measures to transform social identity research – especially for developmental periods and for racial and ethnic groups. People have experiences that vary qualitatively rather than quantitatively, so NIH should support scholarship which moves away from the quantitative imperative and give opportunity to research employing methods which value the lived experience – both positive and negative, to get the full picture. 
  • “Research that is intersectional should be considered.” On top of addressing population and community levels, how do societal-level drivers of disparities (structural racism and discrimination, adverse environmental exposures, violence, lack of quality education, among others) affect health and well-being during childhood? 
  • “How do researchers’ labels do injustice?” Build in a justice framework to influence community and policy change. One panelist gave the example that folks who have lived hard lives can label the experience as “trauma,” to designate that this is an external process, rather than something internal or inherent to the adolescent. 

Vivian Tseng, Ph.D., B.A.
FABBS board member and WT Grant Foundation Program Senior Vice President
(Photo: Recording of NICHD STRIVE Engagement Workshop #5: October 6, 2021)

In the last session, FABBS board member Vivian Tseng, Program Senior Vice President at the William T.  Grant Foundation, commented that now is the time to think about how the ways in which our research work can dismantle structural levels of inequality. She underscored the need to look internally at the demographics of researchers that NIH funds, as well as the demographics of the community that the study is serving.  

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