My Message to African American Men: There’s No Shame in Seeking Help with Mental Health

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By David E. Marion, Ph.D.
Licensed Professional Counselor, and Marriage and Family Therapist
Grand Basileus
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Growing up, in my community, it was frowned upon to ask for help outside of your family. You were forbidden to talk to non-family members about your feelings and especially forbidden to talk about what was going on in your house. There was the inaccurate perception that counseling was for “White folks.” If you needed counseling or medication, that meant to the world you were “crazy,” a layman’s term incorrectly used to label many mental health conditions and challenges. In all my years of counseling, I have never seen the term “crazy” in any diagnostic manual. Continue reading “My Message to African American Men: There’s No Shame in Seeking Help with Mental Health”

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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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Celebrating Native American Heritage Month!

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By Dorothy Castille, Ph.D.
Scientific Program Officer, Community Health and Population Sciences Division
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) celebrates Native American Heritage Month in November and recently published two articles featuring NIMHD-supported research on American Indian health disparities. Both featured studies were led by recipients of NIMHD’s Loan Repayment Program.

The first article of the month highlights the Food Resource Equity and Sustainability for Health (FRESH) study by Valerie Jernigan, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Oklahoma and a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. In this study, also recently featured in Nature, Dr. Jernigan discusses her work with the Osage Tribe in improving the food resources and health of tribal families through a community gardening program. Read the full story.

NIMHD’s second featured story this month introduces a Native American researcher of the Lumbee Nation at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Nursing, Jada Brooks, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., RN. Dr. Brooks has focused her studies on understanding why Lumbee women have the highest death rate related to heart disease in Robeson County, North Carolina, and determining if a positive perspective could help counteract the environmental exposures that increase their risk of heart disease. Read the full story.

 

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Guest Blog Post: Reducing Health Disparities and Enhancing Diversity in Aging Research

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 National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA leads a broad scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life. NIA is the primary federal agency supporting and conducting Alzheimer’s disease research.  

By Richard J. Hodes, M.D.
Director, National Institute on Aging

Dr. Richard J. Hodes

Dr. Richard J. Hodes

Reducing health disparities and increasing diversity in the research workforce are key priorities for the National Institute on Aging (NIA). As Director of the Institute for the past 25 years, I have seen enormous growth in NIA’s health disparities and diversity programs. We’re working to address the complex scientific questions of health disparities in aging-related diseases and conditions on a variety of fronts, including funding research into health disparities and aging and training a new, diverse generation of aging researchers.

Funding Health Disparities Research Related to Aging
In 2015, NIA staff and others, including Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, director of NIMHD and former National Advisory Council on Aging member, collaborated to develop and adopt the “NIA Health Disparities Research Framework” aiming to stimulate the study of environmental, sociocultural, behavioral, and biological factors that influence health disparities related to aging. Since then, our Office of Special Populations has developed a web portal and video to support researchers’ use of the Framework. Using it as a guide, since 2015, NIA has awarded over $100 million in research awards to explore health disparities related to aging. To learn more about NIA funding opportunities in health disparities research related to aging, visit the Framework or check out the opportunities below: Continue reading “Guest Blog Post: Reducing Health Disparities and Enhancing Diversity in Aging Research”

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Health Literacy: Why It Matters for Minority Health and Health Disparities

By Sherine El-Toukhy, Ph.D., M.A.
Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator & NIH Distinguished Scholar
Division of Intramural Research, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Photo of Dr. Sherine El-Toukhy

Dr. Sherine El-Toukhy

A basic principle of effective communication is to know the audience.1 This principle is especially important for patient-provider interactions that involve risk and diagnostic information, preventive measures, and instructions on medication regimens. But a message said is not necessarily a message understood. A patient’s understanding requires an ability to deal with written and spoken word and a grasp of basic math skills and concepts.2 It requires a health literate patient.

As a researcher in the Division of Intramural Research at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), I have been intrigued by how people of all races and ethnicities consume and understand health information and how this affects their health decision making and behaviors. Recently, I published a review of factors that affect the quality of patient-provider interactions among underserved populations.3 My co-author and I found that health literacy was prominent among other patient and clinician related factors. Continue reading “Health Literacy: Why It Matters for Minority Health and Health Disparities”

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Tackling Health Disparities Among Latinos in the United States

By Mariana Sanchez, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work,
Florida International University
Research Associate, Center for Research on U.S. Latino HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse

By Mario De La Rosa, Ph.D.
Professor, Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work,
Florida International University
Director, Center for Research on U.S. Latino HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse

Photo of Dr. Mariana Sanchez

Dr. Mariana Sanchez

Phot of Dr. Mario De La Rosa

Dr. Mario De La Rosa

National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15–October 15) provides an opportunity to reflect on how the histories, cultures, and contributions of Latino Americans have enriched our nation and society. As the largest ethnic minority group in the United States, numbering nearly 58 million, Latinos are the principal driver of demographic growth, accounting for half of the national population growth since 2000.1 The U.S. Latino population continues to not only grow but diversifyWhile Mexicans remain the largest U.S. Latino immigrant group, shifts in immigration patterns over the past decade indicate steep increases in Latino immigrants of Caribbean and Central and South American origin arriving in the U.S.1

Continue reading “Tackling Health Disparities Among Latinos in the United States”

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Three New Research Areas Added to NIMHD’s Language Access Portal

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By Kelli Carrington, M.A.
Director, Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Are you looking for health information in languages other than English for your local community or patient population? As the communications director for NIMHD, I’m excited to share the latest health topic release on our Language Access Portal (LAP).

Our expanded content includes dementia, with specific resources from the National Institute on Aging, mental health, with resources from the National Institute on Mental Health, and substance abuse, with information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Resources from the National Library of Medicine are provided as well.

Continue reading “Three New Research Areas Added to NIMHD’s Language Access Portal”

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Guest Blog Post: Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science

By Christine Bachrach, Ph.D.
IAPHS Executive Director and Research Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Maryland Population Research Center at the University of Maryland, College Park

Recently, the Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science (IAPHS) published a blog post summarizing the NIMHD inaugural Director’s Seminar Series presentation by Ana Diez Roux, M.D., Ph.D., Dean and Distinguished University Professor of Epidemiology in the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University. The lecture was held on December 7, 2017 and the IAPHS post provides another chance to learn from this very informative talk about “Challenges and Opportunities in Health Disparities Research.” Continue reading “Guest Blog Post: Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science”

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Congratulations to the 2018 Health Disparities Research Institute Scholars

Photo of Dr. Richard Palmer

Dr. Richard Palmer

By Richard Palmer, Dr.P.H., J.D.
Health Scientist Administrator

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) held its annual Health Disparities Research Institute (HDRI) from July 23–27, 2018 in Bethesda, Maryland. As with previous years, the selection process was very competitive with nearly 300 applications received from early stage investigators. Fifty scholars from 24 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and one U.S. territory were accepted to the Institute. Selected scholars shared one common attribute—a strong commitment and desire to build a research career focused on minority health and health disparities research.

Continue reading “Congratulations to the 2018 Health Disparities Research Institute Scholars”

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Healthy Mind Initiative Addresses Mental Health of Asian American and Pacific Islander Youth

By Victoria Chau, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

By Lieutenant Commander Kelly Leong
United States Public Health Service

By David J. Robles, B.A.
Graduate Intern, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

                              
From left to right: Dr. Victoria Chau, SAMHSA,  LCDR Kelly Leong , United States Public Health Service  and Mr. David J. Robles, SAMHSA

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness (NMMHA) Month—a practical time to highlight the importance of mental health for everyone. In a recent NIMHD Insights blog post, Dr. Xinzhi Zhang raised serious concerns about mental health awareness among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) youth and families. Suicide deaths have catapulted to the top as the leading cause of death for AAPI adolescents 12-19 years old in 2016.1 AAPI youth are the only racial/ethnic group for whom suicide is the leading cause of death, yet this is rarely discussed. The challenge of raising mental health awareness among AAPI communities is multifaceted but includes two key barriers: language issues and lack of culturally sensitive educators.

Continue reading “Healthy Mind Initiative Addresses Mental Health of Asian American and Pacific Islander Youth”

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Asthma, A Common But Controllable Illness

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By Roselyn Hicks, M.D.
Visiting Scholar, Division of Scientific Programs                                                                                    National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities                           

Tree Pollen

Everything is abloomspring has finally arrived. Pollen is everywhere, and for many of us, so is allergen-induced  asthma.

Asthma, one of the most common childhood illnesses and a leading cause of work and school absences, continues to cause symptoms for nearly 25 million Americans. As a board-certified allergist and immunologist, my most frequent patients were individuals with this adult and pediatric inflammatory, chronic lung disease of the airways. This inflammation causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. The prevalence of asthma, with marked disparities between various populations, continues to increase within the United States. The greatest rising trend is in adult women, non-Hispanic Black children, and those individuals living in poverty—especially boys.2,5 Medical management has improved in recent years, but asthma is still related to more than 3,000 deaths per year.2 What can we learn from the extensive information available about asthma? Continue reading “Asthma, A Common But Controllable Illness”

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The Journey to Healthy Minds for Healthy Youth

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Image of NIMHD Program Officer Dr. Xinzhi Zhang

Dr. Xinzhi Zhang

By Xinzhi Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.
Program Director, Division of Scientific Programs
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Too many stories point to the troubled minds and mental struggles of our youth with the tragic event in Parkland, Florida being one of the latest. Even more saddening, these children’s cries for help are often misunderstood or ignored.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10–24 years old, accounting for 17.6% of deaths in this age group 1 The American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated their guidelines to include universal screening for adolescent depression (youth 12 years of age and older).2 According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, one in eight youth ages 12–17 years old has had a  major depressive episode in the past year, with 70% of them having severe impairment.3,4 Continue reading “The Journey to Healthy Minds for Healthy Youth”

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Partnerships, An Important Factor in Advancing Health Equity

By Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D.
Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Director, NIMHDEach year in April, the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) leads our sister HHS agencies in commemorating National Minority Health Month. This year’s theme, “Partnering for Health Equity,” is a sustainable message which we not only recognize this month but also put into practice all year long through our research, training, and outreach programs and activities.

Over the last two and a half years, I have been leading this Institute in research to improve minority health and reduce health disparities in the U.S., as well as help guide other NIH Institutes and Centers on these issues. Our country is often described as a melting pot—representing people from all over the world. However, our research does not reflect the culture. We are continually trying to raise the bar.

Continue reading “Partnerships, An Important Factor in Advancing Health Equity”

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Guest Blog Post: Improving Diversity in Basic Biomedical Research

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By Jon R. Lorsch, Ph.D.
Director, National Institute of General Medical Sciences

This is the first in a series of guest NIMHD Insights blog posts where NIH Institute and Center (IC) 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.

The inaugural post is from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). With a $2.6 billion budget, NIGMS supports basic research that increases understanding of biological processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention.  

Improving Diversity in Basic Biomedical Research

Photo of Director, National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Dr. Jon R. Lorsch  Director, NIGMS

Fostering a diverse and inclusive future workforce has long been a key priority for NIGMS. The Institute strongly believes that incorporating a full range of perspectives, skills, and experiences will benefit the biomedical research enterprise—and our society as a whole. This standpoint is one of the factors that attracted me to the NIGMS Director’s position.

During my tenure at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, one of my proudest achievements was launching a summer research program for Baltimore-area high school students. Many of the students came from groups underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. Most had never been exposed to a career in science. Continue reading “Guest Blog Post: Improving Diversity in Basic Biomedical Research”

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“Insights” on Simulation Modeling and Systems Science, New Research Funding Opportunity

By Xinzhi Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.
Program Director, Division of Scientific Programs
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

There are many contributing factors to health, such as race, ethnicity, sex, sexual identity, age, disability, socioeconomic status, and geographic location. To help close health gaps, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) spearheads scientific research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to improve minority health and reduce health disparities.

NIMHD is leading a new Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA): Simulation Modeling and Systems Science (SMSS) to Address Health Disparities. To learn more about SMSS and this new funding opportunity, NIMHD Program Officer Dr. Xinzhi Zhang addresses a few questions for the Insights blog. Continue reading ““Insights” on Simulation Modeling and Systems Science, New Research Funding Opportunity”

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NIMHD Loan Repayment Programs

By Dorothy M. Castille, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator, Division of Scientific Programs
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities,

Photo of Dr. Dorothy Castille, Health Scientist Administrator, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Division of Scientific Programs

Dr. Dorothy M. Castille

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) invites qualified health professionals who contractually agree to engage in NIH mission–relevant research to apply for the 2018 extramural NIMHD Loan Repayment Programs (LRP) for an average of at least 20 hours per week for at least two years. Descriptions of the NIMHD LRP follow:

Continue reading “NIMHD Loan Repayment Programs”

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Breastfeeding Disparities in African American Women

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By Regina Smith James, M.D.
Director, Clinical and Health Services Research
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Photo of Dr. Regina Smith James

Dr. Regina Smith James

Some say the best things in life are free…but are they really? Well, when it comes to providing our babies with the best nutrition ever, breastfeeding is not only economical, but it has positive health effects for both baby and mom. Did you know that breast milk is uniquely suited to your baby’s nutritional needs, with immunologic and anti-inflammatory properties? Yes, it’s true! And the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, with gradual introduction of solid foods after 6 months while continuing to breastfeed up to 1 year.

What are some of the health benefits of breastfeeding? Breast milk not only offers a nutritionally balanced meal, but some studies suggest that breastfeeding may even reduce the risk for certain allergic diseases, asthma, and obesity in your baby, as well as type 2 diabetes in moms. Also, breastfeeding creates a close bond between mother and child. And from a financial standpoint, breastfeeding is economical. The United States Breastfeeding Committee noted that families who followed optimal breastfeeding practices could save approximately $1,500 that would have gone toward infant formula in the first year alone. Imagine what you could do with those extra dollars!

Continue reading “Breastfeeding Disparities in African American Women”

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Minorities and Mental Health: Moving Beyond Stigma

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By Courtney Ferrell Aklin, Ph.D.
Chief of Staff, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

By Marcia M. Gómez, M.D.
Health Science Policy Analyst, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Dr. Courtney Ferrell Aklin

   Dr. Courtney Ferrell Aklin

Demographic trends in the United States have continued to change rapidly. Projections indicate that within the next 30 years, the majority of the United States will be non-White.1 Among the racial and ethnic groups that will make up the majority, there is significant heterogeneity, making healthcare delivery even more challenging.

Mental illness is one of the most prevalent health problems in the United States and one of the most taxing on the healthcare system. In addition, mental illness carries the highest disease burden among all diseases, with devastating effects on daily functioning; personal, social, and occupational impairment; and premature death if left untreated.2 One in 10 children and one in five adults are affected by mental illness.3

Continue reading “Minorities and Mental Health: Moving Beyond Stigma”

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Improving the Health Status of African American Males

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By Wayne T. Harris, Ph.D.
Project Director and Contact Principal Investigator
Hampton University Minority Men’s Health Initiative

Dr. Wayne T. Harris

Dr. Wayne T. Harris

It gives me great pleasure to contribute to the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) blog, NIMHD Insights. While the health status of all groups in the United States has improved over the past century, significant gaps remain between the health status of African Americans and other minority groups, and that of the general population. For example, in 1950,1 the life expectancy of an African American male at birth was 59, while that of a Caucasian male was 68. In 2014,1 the life expectancy at birth for an African American male increased to 72.0 while that for a Caucasian male increased to 76.5. Similar gaps exist in the health status and health outcomes of minority populations using a variety of measures, and clearly more work needs to be done.

The Hampton University Minority Men’s Health Initiative (MMHI) exists to contribute to the achievement of one of the overarching goals of Healthy People 2020: “to achieve health equity, eliminate disparities, and improve the health of all groups.” Research has consistently shown that disease management and prevention efforts related to chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and asthma lead to long-term improvement in outcomes.2 But these research findings have not been translated into sustainable, community-based programs. Furthermore, violence prevention efforts are clearly needed to reduce the significant loss of life due to homicide – the eighth leading cause of death among African Americans in 2014, and the fifth leading cause of death among African American males in 2014.1 MMHI is a program based on collaboration between selected regional Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to leverage resources in order to increase research into the causes and solutions for health disparities, increase community outreach and education, and promote effective prevention and/or treatment activities. As part of the National Institutes of Health and NIMHD’s efforts to advance engaged and transdisciplinary research, MMHI serves as a Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center (TCC) for research on minority men’s health.

Continue reading “Improving the Health Status of African American Males”

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Contradicting the Myth of the Model Minority Through a Population Health Equity Approach

Korean American community screening event at a church in Queens.
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By Chau Trinh-Shevrin, DrPH
Principal Investigator, NYU Center for the Study of Asian American Health
Associate Professor, Departments of Population Health and Medicine
Vice Chair for Research, Department of Population Health
Director, Section for Health Equity
NYU School of Medicine

Diabetes management class participants perform group exercises.

Diabetes management class participants perform group exercises.

Asian Americans do not need an apple a day to keep the doctor away. Research suggests that doctors are less likely to follow evidence-based guidelines and meet standards of care with their Asian American patients compared with other racial groups in preventing and managing chronic conditions.1,2 Asian Americans, however, face just as many health challenges, including an increasing rate of diabetes and certain cancers.

This neglect seems to be linked to the “model minority” stereotype of Asian Americans, promoted in American culture and media, which portrays them as uniformly hardworking, affluent, and healthy. Yet, Asian Americans are not all alike: There are substantial differences in language, migration, and social experiences across Asian subgroups whose ancestral heritages hail from East, South, and Southeast Asia, and health concerns and risks vary across and within these communities.3

Continue reading “Contradicting the Myth of the Model Minority Through a Population Health Equity Approach”

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Stroke Ready: Partnering to Increase Acute Stroke Treatment Rates in Flint, Michigan

Skolarus and Bailey water distribution

By Lesli Skolarus, M.D., M.S.
Associate Professor, Neurology, University of Michigan

Sarah Bailey, M.A.
Executive Director, Bridges into the Future, Flint, MI

Dr. Leslie Skolarus (left) and Elder Sarah Bailey (right)

May is Stroke Awareness Month, and we would like to share some information about stroke and our research with you. Each year, about 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke. Disability is the greatest challenge facing survivors and their families. About two thirds of stroke survivors are left with a disability.

Post-stroke disability is substantially reduced by acute stroke treatments, which include intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) and intra-arterial treatment. Unfortunately, these treatments are underutilized—administered to less than 5 percent of U.S. stroke patients. Treatment with tPA must be given in the emergency department (ED) within 4.5 hours of the start of stroke symptoms. 1 The main reason stroke patients do not receive tPA is that they wait too long to call 911. 2 Think of tPA like Drano® for your brain: We want to get the plugged pipe—in the case of stroke, the plugged artery—open as soon as possible. The less time the artery is plugged, the lower the chance of brain damage, so it is extremely important that a person who is experiencing stroke symptoms calls 911 right away.

Continue reading “Stroke Ready: Partnering to Increase Acute Stroke Treatment Rates in Flint, Michigan”

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For the First Time, Healthy People Initiative Focuses on Social Determinants of Health

Nancy Breen, Ph.D.
Dr. Nancy Breen

By Nancy Breen, Ph.D.
Economist, Office of Strategic Planning, Analysis and Reporting, NIMHD and NIMHD Representative to the Healthy People Social Determinants of Health Workgroup

Healthy People Background

The Healthy People initiative is a federal program that provides “science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans.” For the past 40 years, Healthy People has monitored the health of Americans and set benchmarks for how we can all be healthier. You can read more about Healthy People online at www.healthypeople.gov.

Nancy Breen, Ph.D.

Dr. Nancy Breen

Healthy People provides a national 10-year framework for health promotion and disease prevention, with measurable objectives and goals, and it invites states and localities to use the national framework and objectives for their own plans. While the focus has always been health promotion and disease prevention, the Healthy People 2020 agenda is the first to use social determinants of health (SDOH) to frame the conceptual understanding of health. For 2000, an overarching goal to “reduce health disparities” was introduced, partly in response to the 1985 Report of the Secretary’s Task Force Report on Black and Minority Health (often referred to as the “Heckler Report”).1 For 2010, that goal was strengthened to “eliminate health disparities.” For Healthy People 2020, one of the overarching goals is to “achieve health equity, eliminate disparities, and improve the health of all groups.”2 The graphic from Healthy People 2020 shows that the overarching goals emphasize the determinants of health.

Continue reading “For the First Time, Healthy People Initiative Focuses on Social Determinants of Health”

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Introducing the Language Access Portal

By Kelli Carrington, M.A.
Director, Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

NIMHD Office of Communications and Public Liaison Director Kelli Carrington

Ms. Kelli Carrington

Many of us know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed during a doctor’s visit by information about health conditions, medicines, and behavior recommendations. For patients who don’t speak or understand English fluently, the situation can be more than overwhelming—it can be dangerous. Patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) are nearly three times more likely to have an adverse medical outcome.1

Language is one of the most significant barriers to health literacy, the ability to understand the basic health information needed to make good health decisions. Patients who lack health literacy are often unable to read or understand written health information or to speak with their healthcare providers about their symptoms or concerns. These patients are less likely to follow important health recommendations or be able to give informed consent.2

Continue reading “Introducing the Language Access Portal”

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Addressing Mental Health in African Americans Through FAITH

(from left to right): Pastor Johnny Smith, Community PI; Dr. Tiffany Haynes, Academic PI; Dr. Karen K. Yeary, PhD, Academic Co-PI; and Pastor Jerome Turner, Community PI.
Principal investigators

By Tiffany Haynes, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education
Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR

Dr. Tiffany Haynes, Ph.D.

Dr. Tiffany Haynes, Ph.D.

Rural African Americans are disproportionately exposed to numerous stressors, such as poverty, racism, and discrimination,1–that place them at risk for experiencing elevated levels of depressive symptoms.6 Elevated levels of depressive symptoms can lead to a host of negative outcomes, including poor management of chronic illnesses (e.g., hypertension, diabetes), poor social and occupational functioning, and development of clinical depression.7 Although effective treatments for decreasing depressive symptoms exist, structural barriers (e.g., lack of available services, transportation) and perceptual barriers (e.g., stigma, fear of misdiagnosis) impede the use of traditional mental health services within these communities, resulting in a significant unmet psychiatric need. Failure to develop culturally appropriate strategies to provide adequate, timely care to rural African Americans can result in a significant public health crisis.

African American churches have been identified as potential venues for providing depression education and treatment for rural African Americans.8 Within the African American rural community, churches represent a key portal through which as much as 85% of the community can be reached.9 Churches have been used to address physical health outcomes in those communities, but few have focused primarily on addressing mental health outcomes10-11. Through the NIMHD-funded project entitled “Faith Academic Initiatives to Transform Health (FAITH) in the Delta,” our partnership, consisting of faith community leaders and University of Arkansas for Medical Science researchers, conducted formative work in the Arkansas Delta. Data suggested that community members consider elevated depressive symptoms to be a significant unmet need. Furthermore, community members suggested that attempts to improve depressive symptoms should do the following:

Continue reading “Addressing Mental Health in African Americans Through FAITH”

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New Funding Opportunity Announcement for Research Centers in Minority Institutions

By Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D.
Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

It’s been 5 years since the last funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for the Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) was issued. Today I’m pleased to share news that the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) is releasing a new FOA that will capitalize on the program’s capacity to generate new scientific discoveries in minority health and health disparities research and to stimulate the next generation of researchers from underrepresented populations in institutions that are committed to this mission.

The RCMI will continue to serve as a flagship program aimed at the development and enhancement of institutional research infrastructure necessary to conduct world-class biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research and to produce well-trained investigators from underrepresented populations who will help enhance diversity in the biomedical research enterprise.

Continue reading “New Funding Opportunity Announcement for Research Centers in Minority Institutions”

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Apply Now to the 2017–2018 NIH Medical Research Scholars Program

mrsp

By Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D.
Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Medical Research Scholars Program (MRSP) is an excellent research enrichment opportunity for promising students from diverse backgrounds to gain real-life experience in NIH laboratories and patient care areas. NIMHD is proud to participate with other NIH Institutes and Centers in the MRSP. Our goal is to introduce the MRSP to medical, dental, and veterinary students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and encourage them to consider biomedical research as a career.

A medical researcher at work.

A medical researcher at work.

The U.S. population continues to increase in diversity, and there is an urgent need to ensure that the scientific talent which is key to our nation’s success is nurtured, recognized, and supported across all demographic groups. We need more researchers from diverse backgrounds to contribute minority perspectives and priorities to the research agenda, and advance the likelihood that underserved or health disparity populations participate in and benefit from health research.

Continue reading “Apply Now to the 2017–2018 NIH Medical Research Scholars Program”

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Health Disparities Among American Indians and Alaska Natives: Enormous Hurdles and Opportunities to Advance Health Status

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By Linda Burhansstipanov, M.S.P.H., Dr.P.H.
Founder, Native American Cancer Research Corporation and President, Native American Cancer Initiatives, Inc., Pine, Colorado

Linda U. Krebs, RN, Ph.D., AOCN, FAAN
Associate Professor (retired), College of Nursing, University of Colorado at Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus

American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) have long experienced lower health status than other U.S. populations do. AI/ANs born in 2011 have a lower life expectancy than all other U.S. populations (73.7 years vs. 78.1 years).[1] The poverty level among AI/ANs is nearly twice that of the overall U.S. population, and only half as many AI/ANs have health insurance.

linda-b-1

Dr. Linda Burhansstipanov

The socioeconomic conditions where people live and work have a substantial influence on health, and effects are cumulative over a lifetime.[2],[3] In the United States, educational attainment and income are the indicators most commonly used to measure the effect of socioeconomic status on health.3 Compared with other populations, AI/ANs are more likely to have lower socioeconomic status and to live in poverty, leading to less access to cancer prevention and screening and other healthcare services. Additionally, 20 percent of AI/ANs have not completed high school, compared with 8 percent of non-Hispanic Whites. Not completing high school has been associated with unhealthy and risk-taking behaviors.

Continue reading “Health Disparities Among American Indians and Alaska Natives: Enormous Hurdles and Opportunities to Advance Health Status”

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Mental Health Risk Factors and Interventions for American Indian and Alaska Native People

By Spero M. Manson, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Psychiatry; Director, Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health; and The Colorado Trust Chair in American Indian Health and Associate Dean for Research at the Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Denver

Over the past 20 years, as research on alcohol, drug, and mental health disorders has advanced, scientific inquiry among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people has shifted from a primary focus on describing the prevalence of such problems to explorations of ways to address well-documented health disparities.

smmanson_portraitOne example involves detecting and managing depression and subsequent alcohol and substance abuse, risk of suicide, and, more recently, trauma among patients in large primary care settings operated by tribal health programs. In 2001, the Southcentral Foundation’s Primary Care Center in Anchorage, Alaska, initiated Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral for Treatment (SBIRT) among Alaska Native patients age 18 and older.1 Their efforts, which integrated masters-level behavioral health clinicians within the care teams, demonstrated that such evidence-based practices could be tailored to this population in scientifically sound and clinically meaningful ways.2 Over a 5-year period beginning in 2004, 55 percent of the 8,000 patients who scored positive for alcohol use disorder agreed to follow-up treatment. Thanks to those results, the state of Alaska authorized Medicaid reimbursement for SBIRT, leading to the service becoming fully self-sustainable. This approach has been expanded to other tribal primary care settings in Alaska and in rural, reservation, and urban clinics in the lower 48 states. It now includes AI/AN youth ages 12 to 17 and covers other conditions, notably suicide risk and trauma.3

Continue reading “Mental Health Risk Factors and Interventions for American Indian and Alaska Native People”

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Apply Now to NIMHD Loan Repayment Programs

UPDATE: Click here to access the Loan Repayment Program Technical Assistance webinar that NIMHD hosted on September 15, 2016.

By Dorothy M. Castille, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator, Division of Scientific Programs
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities,

Education is the foundation of our nation’s biomedical research enterprise. But a college education is expensive, and a post-graduate education is even more expensive, with the average cost of medical, veterinary, and dental school totaling more than $200,000. In exchange for a commitment to conduct biomedical or behavioral research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will repay up to $70,000 of student loan debt (over two years) per two-year contract through the NIH Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs).

If you are a qualified health professional who agrees to engage in NIH mission–relevant research for at least 20 hours per week at a nonprofit or government institution, you may be eligible to apply to one of the five extramural LRPs:

  • Clinical Research Extramural LRP: Patient-oriented research conducted with human subjects
  • Clinical Research for Individuals from Disadvantaged Backgrounds Extramural LRP: Research conducted by clinical investigators from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • Contraception and Infertility Research Extramural LRP: Research on conditions affecting the ability to conceive and bear young
  • Health Disparities Research Extramural LRP: Research that focuses on minority and other health disparity populations
  • Pediatric Research Extramural LRP: Research that is directly related to diseases, disorders, and other conditions in children

Continue reading “Apply Now to NIMHD Loan Repayment Programs”

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NIH Begins Recruitment for Landmark Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study

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By Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D.
Director, NIMHD

logo of NIH's adolescent brain cognitive development study

Today I’m delighted to share some exciting news. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is launching recruitment for the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study. This is the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States. NIMHD is one of eight NIH institutes, centers, and offices along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supporting this landmark study.

Adolescence, the transitional stage between childhood and adulthood, is an important period in human development. While major physical and psychological changes are happening, teenagers are testing their independence and exploring their self-identity. All the while, the brain is undergoing dramatic changes in structure and function.

Continue reading “NIH Begins Recruitment for Landmark Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study”

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Welcome to NIMHD Insights, the New NIMHD Blog

By Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D.
Director, NIMHD

At the one-year anniversary of my appointment as director of NIMHD, I’m excited to welcome you to our new blog, NIMHD Insights.

NIMHD leads scientific research in two distinct but overlapping areas: minority health and health disparities. But first of all, what do these terms mean?

Minority health concerns the health of the five U.S. racial and ethnic minorities who have historically faced discrimination and social disadvantage. These groups are defined by the U.S. Census and include African Americans/Blacks, Latinos/Hispanics, Asians, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians/other Pacific Islanders. All of these populations are usually not included as participants of all types of biomedical research and most are also underrepresented as members of the scientific workforce. At NIMHD, we are committed to addressing health issues within each of the minority groups independent of whether the outcome is worse, better or similar to that of the White comparison group. We value research that emphasizes mechanisms by which health differs within these race/ethnic groups, as well as comparisons to each other and Whites.

Continue reading “Welcome to NIMHD Insights, the New NIMHD Blog”

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