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Community Interventions to Address the Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic for Health Disparity and Vulnerable Populations


Susan Borja, Ph.D.
Division of Translational Research
Representing Trans-NIH Social, Behavioral, Economic Health Impacts of COVID-19, Particularly in Vulnerable and Health Disparity Populations Workgroup


The intent of this trans-NIH initiative would be to invite research to evaluate the role and impact of community interventions for NIH-designated health disparity populations  and other vulnerable groups to address 1) the impacts of mitigation strategies to prevent COVID-19 transmission; and 2) already implemented, new, or adapted interventions to address the adverse health consequences of the social, behavioral, and economic changes related to the pandemic.


The COVID-19 pandemic and its associated mitigation strategies are causing significant social, behavioral, and economic changes which will have cascading health impacts. Of particular concern are the impacts to populations who experience health disparities and other vulnerable groups. Understanding the multifaceted impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and public health interventions that mitigate risk and promote resilience or recovery in high-risk populations, could help improve our long-term response to the pandemic and prepare more effectively for future public health emergencies.

Research would be encouraged to test community interventions focused on the prevention or slowing of COVID-19 transmission, to evaluate effectiveness and adherence to programs and policies intended to mitigate COVID-19 transmission, and to reduce the negative impact of the multifaceted consequences on health in the target populations (e.g., COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, or deaths; barriers to seeking or receiving appropriate healthcare; lack of affordability of medications or health and cleaning products; harm caused by self-administered and non-evidence-based treatments; or distress or victimization resulting from COVID-19 related stigma and discrimination).

Additionally, community interventions to ameliorate the broad secondary health effects of the social, behavioral, and economic changes is needed. Both evaluation of existing and ongoing community-based programs or policies, as well as prospective examination of new or adapted interventions, are encouraged. For example:

  • Interventions to address food insecurity, home environmental exposures, lack of physical activity, poor sleep, social isolation, or mental health or emotional wellbeing concerns during school and work closures and shelter-in-place orders;
  • Interventions aimed at managing stress;
  • Interventions to reduce the adverse health effects of modifiable risk factors (e.g., smoking, excessive alcohol use, substance misuse, risky sexual behavior, violence, inadequate sleep, sedentary behavior)