Target Population Toolkit provides fundamental knowledge of underrepresented communities in research

Lauren Walsh
Post date: 
December 8, 2017


In recent years, the NIH’s Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program has emphasized integrating special populations into translational research. This includes engaging patients and communities in every phase of the translational process, and promoting the integration of special and underserved populations in translational research across the lifespan. The goal is for all community members to benefit equally from advances in health care.

group of older black women exercising outside

To help achieve this goal, the CCTS’s Recruitment, Retention and Community Engagement Program (RRCEP) is rolling out a Target Populations Toolkit. The Toolkit is a free, online resource for researchers who would like to work with populations that face health disparities and underrepresentation in research. The principles in this Toolkit are applicable to people conducting clinical trials, public health needs assessments, social work research and projects in other health-related disciplines. This may include experienced researchers looking to expand their project to include these groups, as well as new investigators like students, research assistants, and junior faculty.

The Toolkit lays a foundation for working with each population. Through using it, researchers can become familiar with key concepts and concerns, such as: historical issues, data resources, ethical considerations, recruitment best practices, community resources, measuring instruments and funding opportunities.

a group of LGBT youth talking in a community center setting

Currently two toolkits are available through the CCTS website: LGBT and Urban Youth. Over the next few months, the remaining seven populations will be uploaded to the CCTS website- Older Adults, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic/Latino, Native Americans, ESL/non-English Speaking Populations and People with Disabilities. Investigators can download individual sections as needed or a full PDF document.

The RRCEP hopes that through use of the toolkits, we can increase researchers’ willingness and readiness to work with these populations, as well as increase these populations’ participation in research. They also hope researchers will use this information as a springboard to do further reading and investigation into best practices.

While it can get you started, no toolkit can answer all questions or make you an expert in working with the population. While resources are cited for further reading, researchers are encouraged to have conversations with members of their target population to gain deeper understanding and build lasting relationships. The Recruitment, Retention and Community Engagement Program is available to give further guidance on recruitment, retention, and engagement strategies.