Precision Public Health Call for Proposals

March 1, 2018

The Washington University Institute for Public Health is requesting proposals of up to $25,000 or $50,000 in total costs, for precision public health research from multidisciplinary research teams.

Precision medicine holds the promise that new technologies can offer significant opportunities to change our ability to diagnose, treat, or even cure disease.

In spite of the promise provided by precision medicine, there are legitimate concerns that it will not improve the health of the American population as a whole, and that it could worsen existing health disparities. Economically disadvantaged populations and racial/ethnic minorities continue to experience disproportionately higher chronic disease burdens. This disparity is also true for rural America where issues such as access to care, mistrust, social norms of not seeking health care, transportation, and poverty all contribute to worse health care outcomes. The primary drivers of these economic and racial/ethnic health disparities include a complex interplay of social, behavioral, environmental, and biological factors. If we neglect to consider these factors as we roll out research in precision medicine, we risk underutilizing its full power and will likely limit the benefits of precision medicine to a small segment of the American population.

If, on the other hand, we focus on individual or population variation in preventing, detecting, and treating disease, while also collecting data on factors that are crucial in driving disparities such as (but not limited to) income, housing, educational attainment, and employment, then precision medicine holds considerable promise as an emerging, yet understudied, strategy for addressing health disparities. There is need to develop a more precise understanding of distinct communities, in order to tailor preventive interventions for specific, at-risk communities. It is these latter methodologies and research agendas that define the still nascent field of precision public health.

Like precision medicine, precision public health embraces the idea of harnessing vast quantities of data and emerging technologies to improve health. And, like precision medicine, its impact will address some of our most formidable foes – cancer, diabetes, and asthma, Alzheimer’s, maternal and child health, heart disease, mental health, and more. The primary focus of precision public health, however, is not improving the health of individual patients, but improving the health of entire populations.

Precision public health asks how vast amounts of data and emerging technologies can be used to avoid an increase in health disparities, and indeed to reduce health disparities. It asks how data and technology can break down barriers to cooperation and engage the people and populations who are most affected by the problems being studied.

Without a two-pronged approach – precision public health alongside precision medicine – we risk significantly underutilizing the full potential of precision medicine.

Timeline and Deadlines

Letter of Intent: March 30, 2018 (required)
Invite Notice for Full Proposal: April 13, 2018
Full Proposal Due: May 25, 2018
Funding Decision: June 1-15, 2018

Letters of Intent and full proposals should be submitted to Victoria Anwuri.

We are especially interested in projects that:

  • Examine ways precision public health can discover new solutions to the economic and racial/ethnic health disparities we face in this country through innovative exploration of the complex data interplay of social, behavioral, environmental, and biological factors that contribute to health disparities;
  • Focus on the development of better tools and analytic methods for integrating different types of data obtained from individuals (“omics” data, clinical data, behavioral survey data, etc.) with structured information about key contextual factors (social stratification, discrimination, cultural factors, environmental factors, health-related policies, etc.) that act at the community or population level to influence the health of individuals;
  • Promote health literacy and awareness to increase understanding of complex health problems and precision-based solutions;
    Seek to understand striking population differences in responses to therapeutic drug or behavioral intervention outcomes and innovatively examine how addressing social, behavioral, environmental, and biological factors can impact variability in outcomes;
  • Increase racial/ethnic minority population data in large-scale genomic research to help generalize the value of existing genomic-based therapies beyond populations of European descent who are most represented in genomic research;
  • Explore facilitators and barriers to adoption and implementation of precision medicine in populations facing significant health disparities; and/or
  • Develop, examine, or test strategies to disseminate or implement precision medicine innovations in ways that reduce health disparities and maximize population health.

Funding Amount

We will fund up to three proposals at $50,000 and up to three proposals at $25,000 in total costs (including direct and indirect costs).

Requirements and Eligibility

Proposals must address one or more health disparity issue of significance in the US. Proposals that address health disparity issues in the greater St. Louis region and the Missouri Bootheel are preferred.

Research teams must be multidisciplinary including two or more faculty from different schools or departments within the university and with expertise in different disciplines. Teams that include a community partner are highly preferred.

All applicants (excluding community partners) must have a faculty appointment at the university and be a Faculty Scholar in the Institute for Public Health. To find a list of Institute scholars, visit Faculty whose scholar applications are in-process will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Details about becoming a scholar can be found here:

Click here for more information on the Letter of Intent and Full Proposal submission format and the budget table format.


Contact Victoria Anwuri  |   314-747-9206