Community Partnerships to Advance Science for Society (ComPASS) Highlights

ComPASS Community Engagement Informs Program Development

The NIH Common Fund launched the Community Partnerships to Advance Science for Society (ComPASS) Program in 2022 to accelerate the science of health disparities and advance health equity research. To help shape the program, the NIH Common Fund sought input from communities through eight listening sessions in the fall of 2021. 

The listening sessions included representatives from academic institutions, Tribal communities and organizations, foundations and think tanks, professional societies, and non-profit, community-based, and faith-based organizations. More than 500 people participated across all listening sessions, providing important information about community capacities, research opportunities, and challenges related to factors that influence health and health disparities. Feedback from the listening sessions is informing the continued development of the ComPASS Program.  

Major Themes

Across all listening sessions, attendees expressed concerns about how community voices, talents, and lived experiences have not historically been recognized or appreciated during research studies conducted within their communities. They also discussed how these groups want more ownership of their research data and want to be involved in the design and implementation of studies within their communities.

“Attendees stressed the importance of building capacity within communities to effectively develop, implement, and sustain structural interventions and research,” said Cheryl Boyce, Ph.D., Assistant Director for Re-engineering the Research Enterprise within the NIH Common Fund Office of Strategic Coordination. “They also emphasized the need for research organizations to build and maintain authentic relationships with community members and organizations.”

Discussions on maintaining authentic relationships included ensuring the sustainability of academic-community partnerships as well as repairing trust in broken partnerships and recognizing historical trauma. Attendees also expressed the importance of bi-directional learning between academic researchers and community members and ensuring that partnerships are mutually beneficial. A more detailed summary of the listening session responses is available on the Common Fund ComPASS website

Ensuring Input from Tribal Communities

To ensure meaningful Tribal involvement, Former Working Group Co-Chair David R. Wilson, Ph.D., brought together representatives from Tribal Nations and Native communities for a listening session on November 4, 2021. He also expanded the reach of ComPASS partnerships, connecting the program to the Indian Health Service and the Office of Rural Outreach. Through these partnerships, the ComPASS team received important input and perspectives on developing the program and disseminating the funding opportunity to Tribal communities.

“Dr. Wilson was instrumental to ensuring that there was strategic outreach to Tribal communities to inform ComPASS,” said Dr. Boyce. “He made connections with Tribal communities and led a listening session to solicit input on how to shape the program.” 

Dr. Wilson, a member of the Navajo Nation, was appointed first director of the Tribal Health Research Office (THRO) at the NIH in 2017. In this leadership role, Dr. Wilson has brought together NIH representatives, resources, and research to address Tribal health concerns and build a unified NIH presence with which to engage and ensure input from Tribal leaders across the country. The NIH ComPASS team recognizes Dr. Wilson’s efforts in shaping of the ComPASS Program and wishes him well in his new role serving on the White House Council on Native American Affairs.

This page last reviewed on April 5, 2023