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Research Agenda

The research agenda below is intended to provide a roadmap to guide both internal development and external partnerships in growing a community-centered program of research focused on health equity. Given Whitman-Walker’s mission and areas of specialty, we aim to do work that is impactful for communities both locally and nationally who have been historically marginalized and excluded from high quality healthcare. Given the Institute’s policy and education expertise and our integration with Whitman-Walker Health’s clinic, we aspire to conduct research that enhances care delivery and service models and informs policy and educational initiatives to reshape structural, local, and institutional systems to promote health equity for underserved communities. We routinely engage in dialogue with community partners to ensure our agenda remains community-centered and focused on the priorities identified by those we serve. To that end, we have identified the following areas as those that will guide our priorities for both internal projects and external collaborations through 2023. If you are interested in collaborating with Whitman-Walker Institute in any of the areas outlined below, please see our Guidelines for External Collaborators to learn more about the process.

 

Applied social, behavioral, and public health understandings of health inequities for sexual and gender minorities and communities most impacted by HIV

Through collaborations between the Institute’s three arms—research, policy, and education—we aim to conduct community-driven applied research grounded in intersectional frameworks and socio-structural models of health to inform policy and practice dedicated to eliminating health inequities. In addition to an overall focus on sexual and gender minorities (SGM) and marginalized communities heavily impacted by the HIV epidemic, key areas identified for growth within this topic include trans and gender diverse health and resilience, sexual and reproductive health, substance use, healthy aging for SGM and people living with HIV, and chronic health outcomes and comorbidities for SGM and people living with HIV (e.g., cancer, cardiovascular disease). Additionally, we are working to increase the breadth of our work focusing on racial equity, women’s health, and developmental research with adolescents and young adults as well as older adults. We do this using a range of methods and approaches, including cohort studies, interviews and focus groups, biological and psychological testing, and scale development, with a particular emphasis on developing novel measures of patient-centered outcomes such as quality of life as well as research focusing on the interplay between research and policy (e.g., legal epidemiology, structural determinants of health).

 

Clinical and translational advances in biomedical approaches to prevention and treatment of health conditions disproportionately impacting underserved and marginalized communities

We aim to give our patients access to breakthroughs in clinical practice and emerging treatments and technologies to achieve optimal health outcomes, including those to prevent new HIV infections and reduce HIV-related morbidity and mortality as well as achieve sexual health and general well-being. We accomplish this in part through our partnership with George Washington University on the DC Clinical Trials Unit (DC-CTU) and our AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) site as well as ongoing collaborations with industry sponsors. Key areas identified for growth within this area align with the National Institutes of Health’s research priorities to reduce the incidence of HIV by supporting the development of safe and effective HIV and STI vaccines, microbicides, and pre-exposure prophylaxis, develop the next-generation of HIV therapies with improved safety and ease of use, conduct research towards HIV cure, and to address HIV-associated comorbidities (e.g., cancer), coinfections (e.g., hepatitis), and complications (e.g., neurocognitive decline). Additionally, we aim to address ongoing public health threats such as opioid and other substance use epidemics and emerging public health threats from novel infectious diseases, particularly those that disproportionately impact marginalized communities and people living with HIV (e.g., COVID-19).

 

Implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of best practices in community-centered service delivery for underserved and marginalized communities

The Institute collaborates closely with Whitman-Walker Health’s clinical practice as well as allied service providers nationwide to conduct implementation and evaluation research to document and disseminate best-in-care approaches to “treating the whole person” among historically marginalized and underserved populations. This includes translational research that addresses how to adapt interventions for new populations as well as demonstration studies aiming to better support informed decision-making for patients in areas where multiple treatment options exist. Key areas identified for growth within this area include research to address structural and systemic barriers to engagement in care, to document and disseminate best practices in SGM healthcare and HIV prevention and treatment, and to understand and enhance the use of electronic medical records for both healthcare and research purposes.

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