Today [September 20], the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), announced nine grant awards of $1 million each for up to five years to support existing multidisciplinary long COVID clinics across the country to expand access to comprehensive, coordinated, and person-centered care for people with long COVID, particularly underserved, rural, vulnerable, and minority populations that are disproportionately impacted by the effects of long COVID.
The grants are a first of their kind. They are designed to expand access and care, develop, and implement new or improved care delivery models, foster best practices for long COVID management, and support the primary care community in long COVID education. This initiative is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-government effort to accelerate scientific progress and provide individuals with long COVID the support and services they need.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is supporting patients, doctors and caregivers by providing science-based best practices for treating long COVID, maintaining access to insurance coverage, and protecting the rights of workers as they return to jobs while coping with the uncertainties of their illness,” said Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Treatment of long COVID is a major focus for HHS, and AHRQ is helping lead the way through grants to investigate best practices and get useful guidance to doctors, hospitals, and patients.”
“Emerging research continues to transform the way we think about and treat long COVID. To accelerate understanding and breakthroughs we’ll need to continue to work together,” said Adm. Rachel L. Levine, MD, Assistant Secretary for Health, Department of Health and Human Services. “Without diagnostic tests and treatments specific for long COVID conditions, drawing on the collective experience of healthcare providers is critical in ensuring patients receive the care and support they need.”
Long COVID is commonly described as signs, symptoms, and conditions that continue or develop after an initial COVID-19 infection, with people experiencing persistent, varying, and potentially disabling health impacts. These challenges have profound implications for people affected, particularly underserved minority populations with a long-standing history of poor access to affordable, quality healthcare. Also, limited knowledge and acceptance of long COVID among clinicians and others have contributed to delays in diagnosis and referral to appropriate services.
“These nine grants have strong potential to serve as a roadmap for developing improved care models for primary care and specialty clinics serving populations disproportionately impacted by the effects of long COVID,” said AHRQ Director Robert Otto Valdez, PhD, MHSA. “We look forward to sharing actionable knowledge from AHRQ grantees with other healthcare providers to support high-quality care for vulnerable patients with long COVID.”
The AHRQ-funded long COVID clinics will focus on increasing access to care, improving person-centered care coordination, expanding multidisciplinary networks and behavioral health support, and expanding social support services for adult, pediatric, and priority populations through strategies such as:
- Increasing long COVID care access by expanding in-person and virtual visit capacity, establishing new satellite clinics, and growing provider-based referrals through a coordinated education series
- Adding dedicated care coordination, social services, language interpretive staff, and group programs for people with long COVID
- Integrating dedicated behavioral health staff and implementing behavioral health and rehabilitation group support programs.
This work is responsive to the National Research Action Plan, a broader government-wide effort in response to the Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services to mount a complete and effective response to long COVID. Led by Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine, the Plan and its companion Services and Supports for Longer-term Impacts of COVID-19 report lay the groundwork to advance progress in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and provision of services for individuals experiencing long COVID.
In July of this year, to provide a more focused and cross-collaborative effort for long COVID, HHS announced the establishment of the Office of Long COVID Research and Practice to address the growing need for long COVID research, resources, and coordination of efforts across multiple governmental agencies. To further advance the effort, NIH RECOVER launched the opening of enrollment for phase 2 long COVID clinical trials in July that will evaluate at least four potential treatments, with additional trials beginning by the end of the year. Four of today’s award recipients also support the RECOVER consortium.
The mission of AHRQ is to produce evidence to make healthcare safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable, and affordable and to work within HHS and with other partners to ensure that the evidence is understood and used. For more information, visit www.ahrq.gov.
You may find more information on AHRQ’s efforts to address long COVID here: https://www.ahrq.gov/coronavirus/long-covid.html.
This news release was published by the Department of Health and Human Services on September 20, 2023.