The National Institutes of Health today launched a $3 million challenge competition to encourage community-based and advocacy organizations in the United States to develop the infrastructure and capabilities necessary to conduct maternal health research. In addition to competing for cash prizes, participating organizations will receive training and mentoring in writing research proposals and building maternal health research infrastructure. The challenge is part of the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis.
The Connecting the Community for Maternal Health Challenge is sponsored by NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) as part of the Implementing a Maternal health and PRegnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone (IMPROVE) initiative. HeroX, in partnership with FedTech, is supporting the design, implementation and management of the challenge on behalf of NIH through a multi-award contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Rates of pregnancy-related complications and deaths—also known as maternal morbidity and mortality—in the United States are high. About 700 people die of pregnancy-related complications each year, and thousands more experience severe morbidity. The racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in these maternal health outcomes are stark. For example, American Indian/Alaska Native and Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.
“Strong community engagement in research is essential to developing effective strategies to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality and to ensure that the specific priorities of diverse and disproportionately affected populations are addressed,” said NICHD Director Diana W. Bianchi, M.D. “This challenge aspires to enhance nonprofit organizations’ capabilities to design and conduct research projects focused on maternal health needs identified by the communities they serve.”
The three-phase challenge is open to non-academic, 501(c)(3) organizations based in the United States, including advocacy, community and faith-based organizations. The challenge does not require a partnership with an academic medical center or university. Research ideas must align with the goals of the IMPROVE initiative, which aims to reduce preventable causes of maternal death and improve maternal health before, during and after delivery. IMPROVE places a special emphasis on health disparities and engaging underrepresented populations—including racial and ethnic minorities and people with disabilities—in research.
During the first phase of the challenge, competing organizations will prepare a one-page summary introducing themselves and their maternal health research idea. In the first Gathering Phase, all interested organizations will have access to online training and support materials to orient them to the research process and are invited to complete an application to enter the challenge. Up to 50 organizations selected to compete in the challenge will receive deeper and more customized training during the last six weeks of the first phase to help them develop competitive submissions.
Based on their first-phase submissions, up to 15 organizations will be chosen to advance to the second Proposal Phase. These organizations will each receive a $10,000 award and 10 weeks of customized, one-on-one support to develop a comprehensive research proposal that includes the goals of the proposed research, the need for the project and a project plan.
Up to 10 second-phase winners will each receive a $150,000 award and advance to the final Research Phase, throughout which they will continue to receive one-on-one mentorship. During this final phase of the challenge, organizations will have approximately one year to implement their project plans, conduct their proposed research and report results. At the end of the challenge, these organizations will be eligible to share in approximately $1.3 million in prizes.
Additional collaborators on the challenge include the following NIH components: the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering; the Office of Research on Women’s Health; the Office of Disease Prevention; the National Institute of Nursing Research; the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
For more information on entry, deadlines and rules of the Connecting the Community for Maternal Health Challenge, visit www.challenge.gov/?challenge=community-maternal-health
For details about how to register and participate, visit www.herox.com/CommunityMaternalHealth
About the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): NICHD leads research and training to understand human development, improve reproductive health, enhance the lives of children and adolescents, and optimize abilities for all. For more information, visit https://www.nichd.nih.gov.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit https://www.nih.gov.