Priority Populations

The AHRQ Policy on the Inclusion of Priority Populations in Research (NOT-HS-03-010) requires that priority populations be included in all AHRQ-supported research projects involving human subjects, unless a clear and compelling rationale and justification is provided that inclusion is inappropriate. Research on priority populations has been emphasized and encouraged by AHRQ, but research results lag in their ability to identify evidence-based solutions to improving healthcare safety, quality, efficiency and effectiveness. AHRQ's priority populations, specified by Congress in the Healthcare Research and Quality Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-129) include: women, children, racial and ethnic minorities, populations with special healthcare needs (chronic illness, disabilities, and end of life care needs), the elderly, low-income, inner-city, and rural populations.


Healthcare topics affecting pediatric populations, including newborns, infants, children, adolescents and young adults (up to 21 years of age).


Healthcare topics affecting the elderly and aging adults (age 65 years or older), including age-related chronic and acute conditions and long-term care.


Healthcare topics affecting low-income groups, including access to care, affordability of care, and addressing social determinants of health.[1]

Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Healthcare topics affecting racial and ethnic minorities, including blacks/African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians/Pacific Islanders, and American Indians/Alaska Natives.

Rural/Inner-City Residents

Healthcare topics affecting populations in inner-city and in rural areas, including improving coordination of care and healthcare delivery. 

Special Healthcare Needs

Healthcare topics affecting adults and children/adolescents, including those who have chronic illnesses, disabilities, and end-of-life care needs.


Healthcare topics affecting women, including pregnancy, childbirth, gynecological and reproductive health.


[1] Healthy People 2020 defines social determinants of health as the conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. Conditions (e.g., social, economic, and physical) in these various environments and settings (e.g., school, church, workplace, and neighborhood) have been referred to as “place.” In addition to the more material attributes of “place,” the patterns of social engagement and sense of security and well-being are also affected by where people live. Resources that enhance quality of life can have a significant influence on population health outcomes. Examples of these resources include safe and affordable housing, access to education, public safety, availability of healthy foods, local emergency/health services, and environments free of life-threatening toxins.

Page last reviewed March 2019
Page originally created October 2012
Internet Citation: Priority Populations. Content last reviewed March 2019. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.