A mother and daughter hug.

Connecting lab, clinic, and community

By Monica M. Bertagnolli, National Institutes of Health (NIH) via Science

Despite great progress in biomedical research, the health of the US population appears to be getting worse. The United States spends substantially more per capita on health care than other wealthy countries, yet US life expectancy ranks low among its peers. Mortality rates have been increasing for segments of the US population, including those in rural areas, certain racial and ethnic groups, and individuals with low socioeconomic status. A whole-of-society approach is required to address such negative trends and disparities, and the biomedical research enterprise must play a key role.

To better understand relationships between the genes we inherit and the environmental and societal factors that surround us and to deliver more evidence-driven health care, research must be integrated into clinical care and community settings, reaching patients from all walks of life. Unlike most research settings, primary care is patient- and community-centered and emphasizes health maintenance and preventive care alongside treatment and rehabilitation in a location as convenient as possible for the patient. Communities Advancing Research Equity (CARE) for Health, a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) research network in primary care settings, will expand beyond the existing capacity of clinical researchers to engage patients and communities that are currently not well represented in clinical research. By engaging more primary care providers serving more communities experiencing health disparities, the CARE for Health network will address common health issues, including obesity, mental health, perinatal care, and cancer screening. Read more …