Learn How to Protect Your Heart for American Heart Month

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.

But the disparities don’t stop there. Certain geographic regions, especially the South, see higher rates of deaths from the disease. The states at the top of the list in 2016 were Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)—part of the National Institutes of Health—funds a number of large-scale studies to help reduce these kinds of health disparities and inequities. The Jackson Heart Study, which NHLBI co-sponsors with the National Institute on Minority Health and Disparities, is the largest investigation of causes of cardiovascular disease among African Americans. The Strong Heart Study, the largest epidemiologic study of American Indians, examines cardiovascular disease and its risk factors in that population. The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos is the most comprehensive study of Hispanic/Latino health and disease in the United States.

One bright spot is that prevention is possible, at any age. That’s why this February, during American Heart Month, NHLBI is educating Americans about heart disease and how to protect against it. The Institute is also launching #OurHearts to encourage Americans to improve their heart health by making lifestyle changes—together. Research shows that support from others can make it a lot easier to get regular physical activity, eat healthy, lose weight, and quit smoking.

Want to make your own heart healthier and help others, too? Here are four ways to participate in American Heart Month:

  1. Wear Red on the First Friday of February. Grab your friends, family, and coworkers for National Wear Red Day® by donning red on the first Friday of February each year. It’s a visual way to bring greater attention to heart disease awareness.
  1. Get Moving. Inactivity is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. At work, challenge colleagues to take the stairs, schedule walking meetings, and use a standing desk. At home, break your daily activity into manageable chunks: go for a quick walk around the block with family, start a spontaneous dance party in your kitchen, or do any kind of physical activity for just 15 minutes. Small amounts add up.
  1. Mind Your Diet. Unhealthy food choices can raise your risk of heart disease because they contribute to risk factors. Try to limit foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars, and avoid trans fats. Adopt a healthy eating plan, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension eating plan, or go to NHLBI’s Facebook page on February 26 for a live heart-healthy cooking demo.
  1. Share Your Progress: During February, share your #OurHearts stories and photos on social media to show what you and your friends, family, or coworkers are doing to be heart-healthy. Let’s encourage and motivate each other this month and beyond. Find out what’s happening near you at nhlbi.nih.gov/ourhearts.

#OurHearts are healthier together.


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

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”


Communicating the Value of Race and Ethnicity in Research

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”


Celebrating Native American Heritage Month!

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.



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”


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”


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”


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

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”


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”


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”