Benjamin Littenberg, University of Vermont
May 6, 2002
Comments on AHRQ Preliminary Policy on Inclusion of Priority Populations in Research:
Since the recent AHRQ electronic newsletter invited comments about the AHRQ Preliminary Policy on Inclusion of Priority Populations in Research, I am writing to voice my concerns. My experience as a grant applicant and a Peer Review Group member lead me to worry about the exclusionary effect of the policy. In particular, populations that do not meet some of the priority requirements are being excluded from Federally funded research.
Vermont is a small rural state with a relatively low percentage of minority residents. Despite the presence of rural and low income groups, women, children, the elderly, and individuals with special health care needs, research applications from Vermont may be discriminated against because of the perception that the results of the studies are somehow invalid without a substantial number of minority subjects. The effect is to make it difficult for Vermonters to compete with other applicants for Federal research support, and to deny valid and important science that can not be executed elsewhere.
I hope that the policy can expressly state that the absence of any particular special population should not be used to disqualify a research proposal when that research is on an issue unrelated to the population. For instance, research on hospital management or new statistical methods may lose nothing in validity or generalizability for being conducted in a population that is not identified as priority. Likewise, the development of new models for health care delivery that take advantage of local strengths should be supported. If they prove effective in Vermont, they can then be evaluated on a broader scale.
Thank you for the opportunity to take part in this discussion.
Benjamin Littenberg, M.D.
Henry and Carleen Tufo Professor of Medicine
Director, General Internal Medicine
University of Vermont
371 Pearl Street
Burlington, VT 05401
Phone: (802) 847-8268
Fax: (802) 847-0319