CDC has three categories of extramural research programs: program or CIO-generated research, investigator-initiated research, and research centers of excellence. CDC is increasingly funding investigator-initiated research. Some components of CDC have been engaged in this activity for decades (e.g., National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which uses the NIH study section for peer review of its substantial extramural research program). The new CDC Director, with broad support from groups such as the Association of Schools of Public Health and the Association of Academic Health Centers, has identified expanded extramural investigator-initiated research among her highest priorities. This direction is fully consistent with CDC’s prevention and population health mission. Despite the increase in funding for investigator-initiated research projects, this remains a relatively small endeavor.
The committee believes that significant steps to increase research funding are amply justified and warranted. Research!America, for example, with support from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has launched a major effort to build support for health promotion and disease prevention research. The committee supports these efforts. However, given limited information on the full scope of the research agenda to be completed or the capacity of the public health enterprise to make rapid use of a sudden large increase, the following first efforts should be supported and their impact evaluated to identify the most fruitful area(s) for futher investment. Accordingly, the committee recommends that
there be a significant increase in public health research support (i.e., population health, primary prevention, community-based, and public health systems research), with emphasis on transdisciplinary efforts;
the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality spearhead a new effort in public health systems research;
NIH launch a new series of faculty development awards (“K” awards) for population health and related areas; and
there be a redirection of current CDC extramural research to increase peer reviewed investigator-initiated awards in population health, prevention, community-based, and public health policy research, reallocating a significant portion of current categorical public health research funding to competitive extramural grants in these areas.*