By Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D.
Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities
We at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities are excited and proud to be a part of the Transformative Research to Address Health Disparities and Advance Health Equity initiative, a new effort coordinated by the NIH Common Fund. This new set of 11 grants provides roughly $58 million over five years to support innovative, creative translational health disparities research projects across the country. This new initiative speaks directly to NIMHD’s mission to improve minority health, reduce health disparities, and promote health equity, and encourages bold new solutions to solve enduring problems.
Despite scientific and technological discoveries that have improved the health of the U.S. population overall, racial, and ethnic minority populations, socioeconomically disadvantaged groups, underserved rural populations, and sexual and gender minorities in the U.S. share an unfair burden of diseases such as diabetes, heart and respiratory diseases, HIV, and obesity. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has further underscored how disease can disproportionately affect vulnerable populations the hardest.
In our work, characterizing the drivers of health inequities demands a better understanding of social determinants of health, complex underlying causes of health disparities, and effective interventions specifically designed to reduce disparities in these populations.
To attract innovative ideas and perspectives to health disparities research, these new grants encourage a focus on pressing research problems, new approaches, and sizeable, rapid impacts that leverage intersectoral interventions. Each project has an innovative intervention component and focuses on one or more of the NIH-designated populations that experience health disparities in the U.S.
For example, researchers and community-based research collaborations will
- Test financial interventions that address structural racism in minority neighborhoods.
- Provide gender-affirming mental health care and support to reduce suicide and stress-related health disparities in Black transgender and gender diverse youth.
- Apply maternal-child health and nutrition interventions at the system level to reduce food insecurity and its harmful health consequences in racial and ethnic minority communities in the Southwest.
- Implement an app-based intervention to help parents and children, particularly in White populations, hold critical and honest conversations about race, and the role that they have in remedying the pervasive legacy of racism and eliminating discrimination and prejudice.
- Use new technology developed during the COVID-19 pandemic to deliver physical and mental health interventions for diverse populations with and without disabilities.
- Develop and evaluate a new model of school-based, telehealth-driven preventive care for underserved rural and socioeconomically disadvantaged children.
There are additional notable grant programs under this initiative, and I encourage readers to learn more about them by viewing the NIH press release. This initiative is expected to increase the competitiveness of investigators and expand the base dedicated to health disparities research at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) with less resources, also central to NIMHD’s mission. Through its innovative approaches to health disparities research, and research funding targeted to MSIs, this initiative will support the goals of UNITE, an NIH effort launched in early 2021 to address structural racism and racial inequities throughout the biomedical research enterprise.
Not least of all, we are thrilled at the opportunity of this NIH-wide initiative to collaborate with NIH partners pursuing the goals of improving minority health, reducing health disparities, and promoting health equity, including the Office of Research on Women’s Health, the Tribal Health Research Office, the National Institute of Nursing Research, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, and other Institutes, Centers and Offices.