Gregory Bloss, M.A., M.P.P./ Program Director, Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research 

Acquisition Type/Actions

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) requests approval from the NIAAA Advisory Council to allow Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International to submit a contract proposal in response to a sole-source request for proposal.

This acquisition, for other than full and open competition, is conducted under the authority of 41 United States Code (U.S.C.) 3304(a)(1) as set forth in Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 6.302-1.

Under FAR 6.302-1, U.S. Government Contract Law allows federal agencies to award sole source contracts for supplies or services from only one source if the source has submitted an unsolicited research proposal that:

  1. Demonstrates a unique and innovative concept, or, demonstrates a unique capability of the source to provide the particular research services proposed;
  2. Offers a concept or services not otherwise available to the Government;
  3. Does not resemble the substance of a pending competitive acquisition (See 10 U.S.C. 2304(d)(1)(A) and 41 U.S.C. 3304(b)(1).)

A request for proposal will be made public and issued via beta.SAM.gov along with the NIH-approved justification and approvals for other than full and open competition.

Purpose

NIAAA's mission is to generate and disseminate fundamental knowledge about the effects of alcohol on health and well-being, and apply that knowledge to improve diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of alcohol-related problems, including alcohol use disorder (AUD), across the lifespan. Changes in the epidemiology of alcohol consumption have been documented during the COVID-19 pandemic, including increases in total consumption and risky consumption behaviors, both in the overall population and, to a greater degree, among some vulnerable populations. To meet this mission, NIAAA requires additional data on changes in consumption and related behaviors as the pandemic continues to evolve, and analysis to understand potentially manipulable factors that may be available to prevent or reduce health risks associated with alcohol misuse.

Scope

RTI conducted an initial survey of 993 respondents in a nationally-representative online sample during May 2020 to evaluate changes in alcohol consumption between February and April 2020. NIAAA contracted with RTI to conduct a follow-up survey of the same respondents to assess alcohol consumption and related behaviors during July and November,2020. The proposed contract would support two additional waves of data collection from the original sample of respondents surveyed by RTI in May 2020, as well as an “enriched” parallel sample that will support more detailed comparisons, identification of key contextual factors, and subgroup analyses. Each of the re-survey waves would gather responses about alcohol consumption and related behaviors at two time points. In combination with the previous surveys conducted by RTI, this will provide a total of 8 longitudinal time points for comparison. The contract will also support epidemiologic analysis of the survey results, including trends and patterns in consumption and related behaviors among relevant subgroups such as those defined by sex, age, race and ethnicity, family composition, and other relevant characteristics. Additional analyses will evaluate the role of alcohol-related policies adopted in response to the pandemic and other causal factors and correlations to identify potential points of intervention and emerging treatment needs.

Justification/Outcome

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique conditions with the potential to markedly increase risks associated with alcohol misuse. The stress associated with social isolation, fear of infection, economic disruptions, and loss of loved ones affect behaviors and attitudes that lead to changes in drinking behaviors. In addition, disinhibition associated with intoxication and the contexts in which drinking occurs may lead to increased risks of exposure and infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. NIAAA has supported a variety of research on alcohol and the COVID-19 pandemic, but there have been very few nationally-representative studies of changes in consumption during the pandemic. The RTI data are the most comprehensive that have been reported to date. The opportunity to extend the longitudinal data collection is time-sensitive and provides a basis for identifying strategies for targeting prevention and treatment interventions where they may be most needed. The analyses to be supported under this contract can also inform State governments of the potential health consequences of specific alcohol-related policies adopted in response to the pandemic, such as those permitting expanded carry-out and home delivery of alcoholic beverages, at a time when making such policies permanent is being considered in many states.

RTI’s prior experience in conducting these surveys and its possession of the data from the first wave of the longitudinal series make it uniquely qualified and capable of conducting this work. The need for a timely re-survey – at least by early 2022 – also makes a competitive solicitation impracticable for this procurement.