Bureau (MCHB)’s Office of Epidemiology and Research is accepting applications for the fiscal year (FY) 2021 Autism Field-Initiated Innovative Research Studies (Autism-FIRST) Program. The purpose of this program is to support empirical research that advances the evidence base on interventions designed to improve the health of children, adolescents, and young adults with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities (ASD/DD) across the lifespan. Because racial and ethnic disparities exist in the early screening and diagnosis of ASD/DD, the Autism-FIRST Program has a special focus on addressing the needs of underserved populations, such as low-income, racial/ethnic minorities, individuals living in rural areas and, in the case of ASD/DD populations, girls and young women, who are often under identified with regard to ASD, particularly at the higher functioning end.1 The Autism-FIRST program supports research studies that address critical issues surrounding the health and well-being of underserved children, adolescents, and young adults with ASD/DD up to the age of 26, and their families, recognizing that the first 25 years of life help lay the foundation for health and well-being across the lifespan.
A focus on underserved populations is consistent with HRSA’s mission as an agency that promotes access to equitable and coordinated health and health care delivery services. A focus on children, adolescents, and young adults up to the age of 26 is consistent with the mission of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) and the populations it serves. The Autism-FIRST’s program’s goals and objectives are to:
• Generate new evidence to address the needs of underserved ASD/DD populations for whom there is limited evidence of the effectiveness of interventions, and limited access to screening, diagnosis, and treatment for ASD/DD;
• Contribute to the broad public health impact to improve health and service delivery services through studies that are generalizable and replicable for underserved ASD/DD populations; and
• Conduct and disseminate findings from applied and/or translational research on critical and emerging ASD/DD issues using a research design focused on collection of primary data among underserved populations, with a special focus on underserved populations and children, adolescents, and young adults up to the age of 26. Examples of autism intervention research topics of interest to HRSA’s MCHB include, but are not limited to, developing and testing ways to:
o Improve access to supports and services among underserved
populations of children, adolescents, and young adults with ASD/DD and their families;
o Effectively tailor services, supports, and interventions to individual and family strengths, needs, and challenges, recognizing the heterogeneity with which ASD/DD manifests itself across children, adolescents, and young adults with ASD/DD and their families;
o Facilitate the transition into adulthood, including continuity in health care and other supports and services associated with optimal transitions and laying the foundation for improved health and well-being across the lifespan;
o Improve the coordination of care across different aspects of the medical home, and/or across multiple sectors (e.g., health, school) that affect the lives of children, adolescents, and young adults with ASD/DD and their families; and
o Identify services and supports that mediate or moderate relations between family stresses and outcomes for children, adolescents, and young adults with ASD/DD.
Eligible applicants include any domestic public or private entity, including research centers or networks. Domestic faith-based and community-based organizations, tribes, and tribal organizations are eligible to apply.