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The Role of Translational Research in Addressing Health Disparities: a Conceptual Framework

Ethnicity & Disease
ISHIB (Ethnicity & Disease)
Publication Date
  • Article
  • Medicine


Translational research has tremendous potential as a tool to reduce health disparities in the United States, but a lack of common understanding about the scope of this dynamic, multidisciplinary approach to research has limited its use. The term “translational research” is often associated with the phrase “bench to bedside,” but the expedited movement of biomedical advances from the laboratory to clinical trials is only the first phase of the translational process. The second phase of translation, wherein innovations are moved from the bedside to real-world practice, is equally important, but it receives far less attention. Due in part to this imbalance, tremendous amounts of money and effort are spent expanding the boundaries of understanding and investigating the molecular underpinnings of disease and illness, while far fewer resources are devoted to improving the mechanisms by which those advances will be used to actually improve health outcomes. To foster awareness of the complete translational process and understanding of its value, we have developed two complementary models that provide a unifying conceptual framework for translational research. Specifically, these models integrate many elements of the National Institutes of Health roadmap for the future of medical research and provide a salient conceptualization of how a wide range of research endeavors from different disciplines can be used harmoniously to make progress toward achieving two overarching goals of Healthy People 2010—increasing the quality and years of healthy life and eliminating health disparities.

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