On July 30, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released its agencywide strategic plan for 2021-2025. The is the NIH’s second plan since Congress began requiring the agency to produce five-year strategic plans to help ensure that the efforts of the expansive health research agency remain coordinated and focused.
This planning process began in September 2019 within the NIH Office of the Director, where a draft framework document was first developed and published for both internal and public comment. The AAMC commented on the framework in April 2020 [refer to Washington Highlights, April 3, 2020]. A full plan was subsequently drafted for review and approval by the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director.
The agencywide plan is broad to accommodate, and not conflict with, deliberations of the NIH’s 27 institutes and centers, which also develop individual plans and strategies. The new plan sets three overarching objectives for the NIH: advancing biomedical and behavioral sciences, including fundamental research; developing research capacity, such as workforce and infrastructure; and promoting integrity, accountability, and social responsibility in biomedical sciences. Under each objective is a subset of priorities and specific set of goals (e.g., developing new and improved vaccines, addressing the risk and burden of disease).
Additionally, the plan articulates five “cross-cutting themes” reflecting priorities that are seen as touching on all NIH programming. These themes include improving minority health and reducing health disparities; enhancing women’s health; addressing public health challenges across the lifespan (from early childhood to advanced age); promoting collaborative science; and leveraging data sciences in biomedical discovery.
The plan concludes with a section on “bold predictions,” which lists more concrete examples of progress that the agency hopes to achieve within the next five years, such as applications of precision medicine in heart disease and diabetes and decreasing health disparities in maternal mortality. The report underscores the NIH’s close collaboration with the academic medical research community and other partners.