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Inclusion of Priority Populations in Research

Frequently Asked Questions


On December 6, 1999, the Healthcare Research and Quality Act of 1999 reauthorized the Agency and directed AHRQ, in carrying out its mission, to conduct and support research and evaluations, and to support demonstration projects, with respect to the delivery of health care in inner-city and rural areas (including frontier areas); and health care for priority populations, which include low income groups; minority groups; women; children; the elderly; and individuals with special health care needs, including individuals with disabilities and individuals who need chronic care or end-of-life health care.

To implement this directive and help achieve a broad portfolio of research, AHRQ is implementing a policy on the Inclusion of Priority Populations in the health services research. The following list of "Frequently Asked Questions and Answers" has been developed to help investigators comply with the policy requirements.


Question: When does the new inclusion of priority populations policy take effect?

Answer: The new inclusion of priority populations in research policy begins with all grant applications submitted to AHRQ on October 1, 2003.

Question: Does the new policy mandate that investigators must include one or more priority populations in their grant applications?

Answer: The new inclusion policy does not mandate the inclusion of priority populations in a grant application. Rather, the inclusion policy requires applicants to consider including subjects from one or more priority populations in their planned research projects. Applicants are asked to discuss proposed plans to include priority populations in the application within the context of their scientific objectives and research methods. If the applicant does not intend to include any priority population, he or she should also discuss that.

Question: Which groups comprise the list of AHRQ priority populations? How were these populations selected?

Answer: The Agency's 1999 authorizing legislation, directed AHRQ, in carrying out its mission, to conduct and support research and evaluations, and to support demonstration projects, with respect to the delivery of health care in inner-city and rural areas (including frontier areas); and health care for priority populations, which include low income groups; minority groups; women; children; the elderly; and individuals with special health care needs, including individuals with disabilities and individuals who need chronic care or end-of-life health care. These are the AHRQ priority populations.

Question: Does the new policy apply for all types of grant applications submitted to AHRQ?

Answer: Yes, the new policy pertains to all types of applications submitted to AHRQ. This includes new and amended applications, large and small research projects, training and career development applications, conference applications, and investigator-initiated and solicited applications.

Question: How will the inclusion of priority populations be considered during the peer review process?

Answer: AHRQ convenes peer review groups to conduct a scientific and technical evaluation of grant applications. With the new policy, it is AHRQ's intent that priority populations be included in studies such that the research design will explicitly allow for valid analyses to be conducted. Specifically related to the issue of peer review of grant applications, AHRQ reviewers will assess the proposed research plan, including the applicant's discussion of intent to include one or more priority populations or the justification when priority populations are absent. Reviewers will also assess proposed study plans for outreach, recruitment, and retention of study participants, as well as the methods for conducting subgroup analyses for priority populations if applicable. These criteria will be factored in as a component of the overall assigned score for the application.

Question: Does the new policy mean that AHRQ will not fund a grant unless it includes priority populations in the study methods?

Answer: The new policy does not mean that AHRQ will not fund a grant if the project does not include any of the priority populations within its research design. Rather, with this new policy AHRQ intends that the overall portfolio of health services research conducted and supported by the Agency will be inclusive of all priority populations (inner city; rural; low income; minority; women; children; elderly; and those with special health care needs, including those who have disabilities, need chronic care, or need end of life health care). With implementation of the policy over time, the goal is that AHRQ-supported research findings, and related advances in health care practice and policy, will be applicable to individuals from these populations.

Current as of February 2003


Internet Citation:

Inclusion of Priority Populations in Research: Frequently Asked Questions. February 2003. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/fund/ppopfaq.htm


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