Pilot Projects Mini-Grant Program


Request for Proposals released 01/07/2014

The mission of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College is to increase the diversity of health policy leaders in the social, behavioral, and health sciences, particularly sociology, economics, and political science, who will one day influence health policy at the national level.


  • Recruiting and matriculating African American and Hispanic social scientists into the field of Health Policy;
  • Developing a strong, collaborative environment that supports health policy education and partnership among faculty, fellows, scholars, and leadership that spans across Vanderbilt University College of Arts and Science and Meharry Medical College;
  • Cultivating a thriving academic partnership and culture among faculty, fellows, and visiting scholars at Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University;
  • Supporting research and scholarly development among faculty, fellows, and scholars;
  • Creating a national reputation and image for the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry, as a go-to place for health policy research and analysis; and
  • Sustaining the RWJF Center for Health Policy by acquiring external funding for policy research and analysis, and research infrastructure.

Overview of Announcement:

The RWJF Center for Health Policy is pleased to announce a call for pilot grant proposals contributing to health policy toward the improvement of minority health and/or the elimination of health disparities. The purpose of this call for proposals is to encourage small-scale pilot research projects which will be a part of the RWJF Center for Health Policy.

These pilot projects should be completed within eighteen (18) months and have the potential to lead to a larger federally or foundation funded award application.

The RWJF Center for Health Policy is interested in various types of research including basic, clinical, behavioral, social sciences, translational, and communications research as well as population-based studies. The overarching goal of this RFP is to encourage groundbreaking research addressing the social, economic, and political determinants of health and health disparities. The expectation of this RFP is for applicants to conduct translational and trans-disciplinary research linking the social, economic, and political determinants of health and health disparities science. This will include studies that assess a comprehensive array of social and health-related systems methods/interventions, which are innovative, rigorous and well-grounded in appropriate theoretical framework. Scientific knowledge on the social, economic, and political determinants of health and how they are patterned will inform practice, and policy. It will allow practitioners and policymakers to understand the nature of powerful social, economic, political, cultural and environmental influences and how best to address them.

The intent of this funding opportunity is to intensify investigator-initiated research, to attract new investigators to the field, and to encourage trans-disciplinary research that will advance health disparities science and health policy. Applicants will design their own intervention strategies and outcome measures. The research strategies and interventions should be expected to contribute to the fundamental understanding of social, economic, and political determinants and health disparities science. Applicants should be concrete in describing how their results would translate into health policy that would eliminate health disparities and ensure that knowledge generated will be disseminated and replicated.

Examples of broad social, economic, and political determinants indices under consideration for awards, include, but are not limited to those listed below:

  • Income Level and Socioeconomic Status
  • Early Life/ Early Childhood Development
  • Maternal Education as an Index Socioeconomic Status in Early Life
  • Health Literacy
  • Employment and Working Conditions
  • Healthy Housing and Neighborhood Conditions
  • Social Environments and Social Networks
  • Physical Environments – includes the natural environment (clean air, water and soil), the built environment (land use patterns, zoning, and neighborhood or community design) and living conditions such as the availability of safe and affordable housing, transportation and healthy foods
  • Environmental Determinants – includes outdoor and indoor air pollutants, climate change and health
  • Social Determinants of Rural Health Disparities
  • Life Course Perspectives
  • Access to Health Services
  • Healthcare Cultural Competency
  • Behavioral, Cultural and Psychosocial Factors
  • Chronic Stress
  • Immigrant Health


1. Principal investigator must be on faculty at one of the following institutions:

  • Meharry Medical College
  • Vanderbilt University

2. Priority will be given to:

  • Faculty funded or affiliated with the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College;
  • Health Policy Associates of the RWJF Center for Health Policy;
  • Projects that involved RWJF Health Policy Fellows (Vanderbilt students);
  • Projects that involve RWJF Health Policy Scholars (MMC students);
  • Projects that involve collaborations among MMC & Vanderbilt faculty;
  • The ability to conduct rapid start-up and completion of projects given the short pilot project timeline;
  • New investigators who have not yet been the lead investigator on a federally funded research project*; and,
  • Senior Investigators changing their research focus to health policy**.

*All new investigators are required to have an identified faculty mentor for the project. New investigators are required to submit a letter of support from their faculty mentor with their application.

**Senior faculty who are changing their current research focus to address health policy are eligible for funds. The requirement to have a mentor identified is not applicable. However, the emphasis on collaboration holds for senior faculty.

Types of Research Supported:

Priority will be given to:

  • Research that includes intervention studies, and trials that lead to novel interventions;
  • Interdisciplinary research or research with significant policy implications that cuts across two or more diseases or conditions;
  • Research that improves policy approaches for diagnosis, prevention, and treatment or examines pathways to disparities in health outcomes.

Email of Intent:

A non-binding email of intent is requested to help the RWJF Center for Health Policy better plan for the review session. Please email the Center at with the following information by February 14, 2014:

  • Principal Investigator
  • RWJF Center for Health Policy affiliation (if applicable)
  • Faculty Mentor (if applicable)
  • Proposed Topic
  • Department Name
  • Institution Name

Guidelines for Proposal:

One electronic copy of the completed, ten-page proposal will be due by 4:00 p.m. on April 14, 2014 to The proposal should not exceed 10 double-spaced pages (1 inch margins; font at least 11-point) and include:

Title Page (not included in 10 page limit)

    • Project Title
    • Name, professional title, department, institution, address, work telephone number(s), e-mail address, and fax number
    • Abstract
    • Signature and contact information of Institution's Research Official or Director of Sponsored Research (if outside of MMC) or Department chairperson (MMC)

Research Plan (maximum of 10 double-spaced pages)***

    • Specific Aims and Rationale (clearly define the racial/ethnic health disparity and policy issue and how the proposed study addresses the problem)
    • Background and Significance
    • Research Design and Methods (detailed analysis plan), including:

- Study population
- Data collection & measurement
- Analysis Plan

    • Summary, including:

- Strengths and limitations
- Significance
- Relevance to health disparities and health policy

    • Proposed project timeline
    • Brief human subjects section; however, IRB approval is not required prior to submission. IRB approval will be required prior to release of any funds.

In addition to the contents of the 10 pages outlined above, applicants must provide:

    • A list of references cited in the proposal
    • Appendices, ONLY if necessary, for materials such as copies of survey instruments
    • PHS 398 Budget forms and budget justification (Projected budget must total to $20,000)
    • The Principal Investigator's PHS 398 biosketch form
    • The Faculty-Mentor's PHS 398 biosketch and letter of support, if applicable.

***NOTE: Please include all of the above items (including references, budget, budget justification, PI and faculty-mentor biosketch form) within one document. The only additional documents allowed will be scanned copies of your letters of support and a copy of the scanned or faxed cover page with an official signature.

Budget Guidelines:

The RWJF Center for Health Policy has $100,000 for pilot grants in 2014 and therefore anticipates funding five (5) proposals. The proposal's budget should reflect $20,000.

PHS 398 budget forms must be used and a budget justification must be provided. The projects must be completed within eighteen (18) months and award funds may be used for data collection, mailing of surveys, analyses of any type, interventions, or for other resources necessary to complete the project. Funds to support summer salary of faculty contracted for nine (9) months is allowable. Funds to support a research assistant are also allowed. However, award funds may not be used to pay for university overhead, clinical patient care, for the purchase of computer hardware, food, or investigator travel to conferences or meetings.

Review Criteria:

Applications will be evaluated based on scientific merit. It is the researcher's responsibility to present the proposal in a clear and logical fashion, to make a convincing case for the significance of the work and to present sufficient detail about the research plans so that an adequate evaluation of the proposal can be made. Included in the consideration of merit are:

  • relevance of the proposed study to health policy that impacts racial/ethnic health disparities;
  • significance of the work;
  • focus on recommended condition-specific priorities listed in the RFA;
  • soundness of the proposed methods;
  • feasibility of accomplishing the stated goals of the project;
  • involvement of RWJF Health Policy Fellows at Vanderbilt University and/or Health Policy Scholars at Meharry Medical College in all aspects of the research project;
  • potential for contributing to or fostering further research in the area;
  • potential for leading to additional external funding; and
  • PI status as a new investigator, collaborative projects or a senior researcher changing research focus.

Funded Investigator Responsibilities:

All pilot award recipients are required to: (a) obtain IRB approval prior to the conduct of the research and file a copy of that approval in the MMC OHSP; (b) conduct the research as proposed and further directed by reviewers’ comments; (c) manage their budgets and expend the grant funds in accordance with budget guidelines; (d) submit a nine (9) month progress report and a final report within 30 days after the eighteen (18) month completion date; (e) acknowledge the RWJF Center for Health Policy as the funding source on all related manuscripts and presentations; (f) have participating students present results at the Meharry Student Research Day; (g) be willing to present funded research at health policy-related events; and, (h) submit project abstracts to two national conferences and/or submit project manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal by the eighteen (18) month completion date.

Important Dates:

Email of Intent: January 7, 2014 – February 14, 2014

Proposals Due: April 14, 2014

Earliest Anticipated Start Date: June 1, 2014

Project End Date: December 31, 2015

Notification of Awarded Proposal:

Five proposals will be selected for funding and all applicants will be notified by the first week of June 2014.

Please submit proposals electronically by 4:00 pm, April 14, 2014 to

For questions regarding this announcement, please contact (615) 327-6202.