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Exploring the Potential of Artificial Intelligence to Improve Minority Health and Reduce Health Disparities

By Natasha Williams, Ph.D., J.D., LL.M., M.P.H.
Legislative Liaison
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Photo of Dr. Natasha Williams

Dr. Natasha Williams

Over the last 20 years, the diagnosis and treatment of disease has advanced at breakneck speeds. Currently, we have technologies that have revolutionized the practice of medicine, such as telemedicine, precision medicine, Big Data, and medical artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies, especially AI, promise to improve the quality of patient care, lower health care costs, and better patient treatment outcomes. However, the impact of AI on minority health and health disparities has been largely understudied.

What is AI? The definition of AI is broad and varied and has many subareas. However, the common theme is the ability to “automate or replicate intelligent behavior.”1 Machine learning, which is a subcategory of AI, is the ability of computers to teach themselves and create their own programming. Deep learning, another AI technique, mimics the human brain by creating an artificial neuronal network. Natural language processing (NLP), which was applied by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)–funded researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and is discussed later in the post, helps computers interpret human language. These methods recognize patterns in the data. Since AI is fueled by data, it is imperative that the data be of good quality, inclusive, and free from bias.2 If we fail to ensure these three principles, we could exacerbate health disparities. Continue reading “Exploring the Potential of Artificial Intelligence to Improve Minority Health and Reduce Health Disparities”

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50 Years After Stonewall, Celebrating Progress and Striving for LGBTQ Health Equity

By Brian Mustanski, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing
Co-Director, Third Coast Center for AIDS Research
Co-Director, Center for Prevention Implementation Methodology
Professor, Department of Medical Social Sciences
Northwestern University
Member, National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities

In June 1969, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community led historic riots against discriminatory police raids of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. The Stonewall riots galvanized the LGBTQ community to come together in a nationwide movement in pursuit of equality.

Growing up as a young gay man in Minnesota, I had no knowledge of Stonewall. With the Internet still in its infancy, there were limited resources to learn about the LGBTQ community. I resorted to secretly reading my high school encyclopedia’s entry on “homosexuality,” which that edition still described as a psychiatric disorder. Media coverage of homosexuality was dominated by the emerging AIDS crisis. I often heard people say, “AIDS is God’s punishment.” With no access to alternative information, it was hard to reject these messages.

Years later, I began pursuing a career in science. My undergraduate faculty mentor warned me not to “come out,” as it could hurt my chances of graduate admission. Evidence is just emerging on how sexual and gender minority (SGM) people experience structural and interpersonal barriers to STEM careers.1 Continue reading “50 Years After Stonewall, Celebrating Progress and Striving for LGBTQ Health Equity”

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Guest Blog Post: Reducing Health Disparities to Improve the Health of All Women

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This is part of a series of guest NIMHD Insights blog posts where NIH Institute and Center Directors highlight initiatives, resources and funding opportunities relevant to minority health and health disparities research, and training at their Institutes. The goal of this guest blog series is to link NIMHD stakeholders to minority health and health disparities-related information and opportunities across NIH.

This post is from the director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) ORWH is part of the Office of the Director of NIH, and works in partnership with the 27 NIH Institutes and Centers to ensure that women’s health research is part of the scientific framework at the NIH—and throughout the scientific community.

By Janine Austin Clayton, M.D.
Associate Director for Research on Women’s Health
Director, Office of Research on Women’s Health

The Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH), on behalf of NIH, led the development and publication of The Trans-NIH Strategic Plan for Women’s Health Research, outlining NIH’s goals for advancing science for the health of women over the next 5 years. One of three guiding principles of the Strategic Plan posits that the influences on the health of women include—in addition to sex and age—race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education, geographic location, disability status, and other factors. Rigorous scientific research that accounts for these influences can help us understand and address the health concerns of all populations of women, particularly women from minority populations that bear a disproportionate burden of illness.

Continue reading “Guest Blog Post: Reducing Health Disparities to Improve the Health of All Women”

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Addressing Social Needs and Structural Inequities to Reduce Health Disparities: A Call to Action for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

By Marshall H. Chin, M.D., M.P.H.
Richard Parrillo Family Professor of Healthcare Ethics in the Department of Medicine,
University of Chicago
Member, National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities

When I was a kid, every Saturday my parents would pack my older sister, younger brother, and me into the family station wagon, and we’d drive 40 minutes on Route 2 East from Boston’s western suburbs into Chinatown. There we gathered with aunts, uncles, and cousins in the home of my grandparents, immigrants from Toisan in southern China. The conversations were loud, the play was very lively, and the wonderful aromas of roast chicken, fried noodles, and sizzling stir-fried vegetables filled the air.

An impressionable young child, I watched intently as my uncles played poker, cigar smoke wafting into the nighttime air. They taught me how to play poker at the ripe old age of 8, and I filled in when one had to take a break for a hand or two. Most of my paternal uncles worked in the laundries. My mother’s side was noodles. My uncles were bright men, but the bamboo ceiling—basically, exclusion from good jobs—limited their opportunities. “I don’t have a Chinaman’s chance,” they’d say as they folded a losing hand of cards.1

Running around Chinatown with my cousins, I saw that my uncles weren’t the only ones whose opportunities were limited. Housing was crowded, and the streets were dirty and smelled of garbage. Years later, when I worked part-time at the Federally Qualified Health Center in Boston’s Chinatown, I cared for many non–English speaking immigrants with limited education. They faced uphill battles as they dealt with their chronic health conditions, paid medical bills without health insurance, and attempted to advance in society. Continue reading “Addressing Social Needs and Structural Inequities to Reduce Health Disparities: A Call to Action for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month”

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Find Your Path to an Active and Healthy Lifestyle

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By U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D.
Department of Health and Human Services

CAPT Felicia Collins, M.D.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Director, Office of Minority Health
Department of Health and Human Services

Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D.

CAPT Felicia Collins, M.D.

CAPT Felicia Collins, M.D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As National Minority Health Month enters its last week, it has been inspiring to experience and learn about the events and activities taking place across the nation in support of minority health. Continue reading “Find Your Path to an Active and Healthy Lifestyle”

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Write Your Own Story: Recognizing Your Potential as a Woman or Minority in Research

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By Anna María Nápoles, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Scientific Director
Division of Intramural Research
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Photo of Dr. Anna María Nápoles

Dr. Anna María Nápoles

I recently did an interview for NIH’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, to help celebrate Women’s History Month. I spoke about how mentoring and networking can help diversify science, my work as the scientific director of the Division of Intramural Research at NIMHD, and the importance of diversity in science. I also shared my personal experience, because it led me to the research that I do. It was my own family’s experiences that taught me the importance of research on health disparities.

My parents were both immigrants from rural villages in Jalisco, Mexico. My father worked two jobs that were very hard on his body, but he made sure that my two siblings and I had the benefit of an excellent education. Although he had little formal education, my father worked to better himself and was involved in politics and social volunteerism in our community. This had a lasting impact on me.

Continue reading “Write Your Own Story: Recognizing Your Potential as a Woman or Minority in Research”

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National Nutrition Month: It’s Your Time to Win!

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By Patrice Armstrong, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Office of Science Policy, Strategic Planning, Analysis, Reporting, and Data
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Photo of Dr. Patrice Armstrong

Dr. Patrice Armstrong

Happy and healthy “National Nutrition Month!” Whether your journey for optimal health is progressing or needs a boost, congratulations on taking strides toward a healthier lifestyle.

Healthy eating is shaped by each person’s life, personal preferences, cultural influences, traditions, and access to food. Nutrition-related health disparities persist disproportionately for chronic conditions among minority populations, compared to non-Hispanic Whites in the United States. In 2009–2012, significantly more  Black men (43%) and women (44%) had high blood pressure than their White counterparts.1 Hispanics are 50% more likely to die from diabetes,2 and obesity rates of 38% for Blacks and 32% for Hispanics3 are of epidemic proportions. High blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity also increase the risk for heart disease.

Continue reading “National Nutrition Month: It’s Your Time to Win!”

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Learn How to Protect Your Heart for American Heart Month

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By Lenora Johnson, Dr.P.H., M.P.H.
Director of the Office of Science Policy, Engagement, Education and Communications
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Sadly, one in four people die of it each year. Yet, despite progress in reducing these rates overall, the disease continues to impact communities of color in a disproportionate and troubling way.

African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, and Alaska Natives all experience higher rates of both heart disease and its associated conditions—diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Disturbingly, within these already hard-hit populations, women often bear an even greater burden. African American women, for example, have higher rates of heart disease and are more likely to die of it than White women. Continue reading “Learn How to Protect Your Heart for American Heart Month”

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Quitting Tobacco Now: A Short Guide for Your New Year’s Resolution

Quit Now

By Kelvin Choi, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator
Division of Intramural Research, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Dr. Kelvin Choi, Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator Division of Intramural Research, NIMHD

Dr. Kelvin Choi

Happy New Year!

Many people make New Year’s resolutions to live a healthier lifestyle. If you use commercial tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco among others, quitting tobacco (or helping someone quit tobacco) may be on your list of New Year’s resolutions. Stopping tobacco use has many health benefits, including lower risks for many types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases (e.g., stroke, heart diseases), and longer life expectancy. However, changing behaviors is hard. Here is a short guide to help achieve your New Year’s resolution to quit tobacco products. Continue reading “Quitting Tobacco Now: A Short Guide for Your New Year’s Resolution”

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Communicating the Value of Race and Ethnicity in Research

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Earlier this year, NIMHD Director Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable wrote a post for NIH’s About Science, Health, and Public Trust blog. This website aims to share strategies and best practices to help improve public understanding of how biomedical research impacts personal health. In his post, Dr. Pérez-Stable raises awareness about the vital role that race and ethnicity play in clinical research. Read the post in its entirety below.

Until recently, researchers assumed that what they learned about White male participants could be safely applied to anybody, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or other variables. We now know that this isn’t true. When you’re communicating about research results, it’s vital not only to explain how a study was done, but who was being studied.

Unfortunately, racial and ethnic minorities experience more preventable diseases and poorer health outcomes—referred to as “health disparities ”—yet they are not included in research studies as often as White people are. This is true even though researchers who get NIH funding have been required since 1993 to report race, ethnicity, and gender of participants in their biomedical research. African Americans and Latinos make up 30% of the U.S. population but account for less than 10% of participants in genetic studies.   Continue reading “Communicating the Value of Race and Ethnicity in Research”

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