Progress on Cross-Cutting Themes: Highlights

Global Health

  • NEW: Interventions for stigma reduction to improve HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)
    NICHD is working with other NIH institutes and centers (ICs) to support research to understand stigma as a factor in HIV transmission, and to eliminate or mitigate the aspects of stigma that limit beneficial health outcomes for those individuals and communities with and at risk for HIV. The effort will also conduct exploratory studies to determine the feasibility of stigma-reduction interventions related to HIV prevention, treatment, and/or care in LMICs. Learn more: PAR-21-344.
  • NEW: Global brain and nervous system disorders research across the lifespan
    In collaboration with other NIH ICs, NICHD is supporting research to understand the trajectory of brain and other nervous system-related function and disorders throughout life. This work is specifically relevant to those in LMICs with these conditions. Learn more: PAR-21-311; PAR-21-319.

Health Disparities

  • NEW: Disparities in maternal mortality between Black and White women are concentrated among a few causes of death (PMID: 34383557)
    NICHD-funded researchers re-examined information on death certificates from 2016 and 2017 and found that the maternal mortality rate among non-Hispanic Black women was 3.5 times higher than among non-Hispanic White women. Previous standard analyses had indicated a 2.5-times higher death rate for Black women. The new analysis also revealed that the disparities were concentrated among a few causes of death. Postpartum cardiomyopathy and the blood pressure disorders preeclampsia and eclampsia were leading causes of maternal death for Black women, with mortality rates five times higher than those for White women. Pregnant and postpartum Black women were also two to three times more likely than White women to die of hemorrhage or embolisms.
  • NEW: Women with disabilities have higher risk of birth complications and death (PMID: 34910153)
    NICHD-supported researchers analyzed data from more than 223,000 deliveries in 19 U.S. hospitals, including about 2,200 women with a disability. They found that pregnant women with disabilities had a much higher risk for severe pregnancy- and birth-related complications and death than other pregnant women. Women with disabilities were at higher risk for a wide variety of pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, placenta previa, hemorrhage, thromboembolism, and infection.

Infectious Diseases

  • NEW: Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions (ATN)
    NICHD is leading the renewal of ATN, a clinical research network that develops and conducts innovative behavioral, community-based, translational, therapeutic, microbicide, and vaccine trials in youth ages 13 years to 24 years at risk for HIV and living with HIV. ATN has a primary focus on including minors in this important research. Learn more: RFA-HD-23-020, RFA-HD-23-021.
  • NEW: Weekly COVID-19 testing helps reduce transmission in schools for children with disabilities (PMID: 34465306)
    People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) are at higher risk for developing severe disease and complications from SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, virtual learning also is difficult for children with IDDs and their families. To address concerns about the spread of the virus in schools, researchers measured SARS-CoV-2 transmission rates in six schools for children with IDDs. Reassuringly, the rates of infection in the six schools were lower than rates seen in the surrounding community.


  • NEW: The role of nutrition in care and development of preterm infants
    Currently, there are no universally accepted standards for nutritional care of preterm infants (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) that cover the full developmental range of these infants, from those born at the limits of viability to those born "near term." NICHD launched a new initiative to address the significant gaps that exist in our understanding of the following: nutrient needs of infants; factors to be considered in the transitioning of infants from parenteral to enteral feeding; specific needs of infants currently cared for in neonatal intensive care units; and data needed to support the establishment of standards of nutritional care for preterm infants. Learn more: RFA-HD-22-023.
  • NEW: Brain receptor linked to puberty and growth (PMID: 34732894)
    Researchers identified a brain receptor that links childhood nutrition to the timing of puberty and growth. People with mutations in the gene for the receptor started puberty later and were often shorter than average. The findings help explain how adequate nutrition affects growth and sexual development.


  • NEW: Genetic testing of the siblings of newborns with cancer genes could reduce rare pediatric cancer deaths by half (PMID: 34661666)
    Based on current rates for childhood cancers associated with 11 genetic mutations, researchers estimated the number of siblings who would have the mutation, and who would be expected to develop cancer before the age of 20. The scientists found that conducting genetic tests on the siblings of newborns found to have mutations in any one of 11 genes most commonly associated with childhood-onset cancers could reduce deaths from these rare cancers by about one-half.
  • NEW: New, easier method shows promise for detecting tuberculosis (TB) infection in young children (PMID: 34001096)
    Although effective treatment exists, many children die from TB without being treated, mostly because it is difficult to detect the infection before it is too late. Collecting mucus samples from young children is extremely challenging and often delays TB diagnosis. Scientists tested a new method of diagnosis that uses tiny samples of blood instead of mucus. The new test detected TB infections with a high degree of accuracy, suggesting a useful alternative that could lead to earlier TB diagnosis and treatment.
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