Health Disparities

Heartfelt Thanks to the NIMHD Scientific Community in the Time of COVID-19

NIMHD leadership say thank you
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Co-authored by
Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D.
Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Monica Webb Hooper, Ph.D.
Deputy Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

NIMHD leadership say thank you

As leaders of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), we want to express our sincerest thanks to the NIMHD scientific community and staff for their efforts as we continue to experience the most challenging public health crisis in over a century. Your rapid-response efforts to document, understand, and address the undue burden of COVID-19 among populations with health disparities—the very groups already dealing with longstanding disparities in life expectancy and overall well-being—have not gone unnoticed. We deeply appreciate your unwavering commitment to research designed to uncover the causes of health disparities, develop interventions to address them, and promote health equity.

Since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has radically affected us in our daily lives—as individuals, families, and as members of the biomedical research workforce. We have all had to manage unfathomable adjustments and elevated stress both personally and professionally. The pandemic has disproportionately affected the lives and livelihoods of populations that experience health disparities in even more pronounced ways. And these groups—racial and ethnic minority communities, socioeconomically disadvantaged persons, people who live in rural underserved areas and sexual and gender minority persons—are prioritized by NIMHD. Continue reading “Heartfelt Thanks to the NIMHD Scientific Community in the Time of COVID-19”

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All Health is Local: Measuring the Burden of Disease by U.S. County, Race/Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status

All Health Is Local
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Ali H. Mokdad, Ph.D.
Chief Strategy Officer, Population Health
Professor, Health Metrics Sciences
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation
University of Washington, Seattle

Ali Mokdad, Ph.D.

Ali Mokdad, Ph.D.

Despite greater public awareness about the social determinants of health, health inequities in the United States remain severe. Reducing disparities in health outcomes are a persistent challenge for policymakers, public health officials, and medical professionals. Due in part to these gaps, the U.S. underperforms against other industrialized countries in key health metrics, such as overall and healthy life expectancy. The reasons that the U.S. lags behind its peers are manifold. Most importantly, however, are the health discrepancies by geographic location, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (SES). Understanding and reducing disparities among those most affected must be of central interest to policymakers to ensure that every person in the U.S. can lead a healthy life. A dearth of sufficient evidence on local health patterns produced from high-quality scientific research weakens our ability to understand the problem and design interventions. A particularly pressing need is for comprehensive and comparable examination of health outcomes for individuals in the U.S. by race/ethnicity and SES at the local level. Continue reading “All Health is Local: Measuring the Burden of Disease by U.S. County, Race/Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status”

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NIH’s Minority Health and Health Disparities Strategic Plan 2021-2025: A Path to the Future

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NIH’s Minority Health and Health Disparities Strategic Plan

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

Photo of Dr. Eliseo J. Perez-Stable, NIMHD DirectorThe COVID-19 pandemic has brought minority health and health disparities new attention on the national stage. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and Latinos and Latinas.

This is a microcosm of the health equity challenge that plagues the U.S.

As in most conditions with health disparities, the causes are complex. People from some of these groups are less likely to have health insurance than Whites. Inequities in access to quality education and limited economic opportunities for many, mean that many minority groups are disproportionately represented among the ranks of essential workers, such as those who work in farms, grocery stores, and support staff in health care settings and long-term care facilities, and less able to avoid the virus at work than people who work in office jobs. Continue reading “NIH’s Minority Health and Health Disparities Strategic Plan 2021-2025: A Path to the Future”

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National Minority Mental Health Month: Reflections and Resources

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stock image of minorities in counseling circleMental illness does not discriminate, and more than 40 million Americans experience them each year regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, or socioeconomic status. July is National Minority Mental Health Month—a time to raise awareness about the unique psychological struggles that people from racial and ethnic minority communities face.

For National Minority Mental Health Month, NIMHD is sharing reflections and resources about the challenges, stigma, and access to mental health providers minorities often experience. We encourage you to educate yourself, your families, and your communities about mental health and emotional wellbeing. Continue reading “National Minority Mental Health Month: Reflections and Resources”

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A Black Doctor and Scientist on Vaccinating Minorities

Photo of Dr. Roderic I. Pettigrew getting a COVID-19 vaccine
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NOTE: For National Minority Health Month, NIMHD Insights Blog is sharing this timely op-ed that was printed with permission from the Houston Chronicle from former and founding Director of NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, Dr. Roderic I. Pettigrew.

By Roderic I. Pettigrew, Ph.D., M.D.
CEO of Engineering Health
Executive Dean of Engineering Medicine
Texas A&M University and Houston Methodist Hospital
Former and Founding Director, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering

Photo of Dr. Roderic I. Pettigrew getting a COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Roderic I. Pettigrew getting his COVID-19 vaccine

When it was first announced that a COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for emergency use by the Federal Drug Administration in the United States, the scientific community was finally able to exhale. As a Black physician and member of the scientific community, I was particularly encouraged because of the disproportionately higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 among the Hispanic, Black, and Indigenous American populations.

My relief, however, was short-lived. We continue to see troubling inequities with new reports showing that many people from the minority community are among the lowest currently receiving the new vaccines, and the highest to be hesitant about its safety and effectiveness. According to Pew Research Center1, just 42 percent of Black adults are inclined to get vaccinated, compared to 63 percent of white adults and 83 percent of adult Asian Americans.

Continue reading “A Black Doctor and Scientist on Vaccinating Minorities”

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NIMHD Director Statement in Support of NIH Efforts to Address Structural Racism

NIH Ending Structural Racism initiative
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By Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D.
Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

NIH Ending Structural Racism initiativeOn March 1, NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., announced the launch of UNITE, a new NIH initiative aimed at bringing an end to structural racism in biomedical research. In his statement, Dr. Collins recalled the agency’s longstanding support of programs to expand the diversity of the scientific workforce, but he acknowledged shortfalls in NIH’s efforts to bring “…diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and skillsets to complex scientific problems.” As the Director of NIMHD, I enthusiastically endorse this newly stated goal for NIH to address, manage and eliminate systemic racism and discrimination embedded in policies and practices in the biomedical research enterprise. Since its beginnings as an Office more than three decades ago, NIMHD has promoted and supported the recruitment and training of a diverse workforce as part of its mission in research and training. We will continue that work while contributing our knowledge, experience, training programs, and tools to our collective goal of ending structural racism and discrimination, by building a biomedical workforce that reflects the populations we serve at all levels of authority within NIH and in our grantee institutions.

Continue reading “NIMHD Director Statement in Support of NIH Efforts to Address Structural Racism”

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NIMHD 10: A Year in Review and a Path Forward

Photo of Dr. Eliseo J. Perez-Stable, NIMHD Director
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By Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D.
Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Photo of Dr. Eliseo J. Perez-Stable, NIMHD DirectorIn 2020, we celebrated NIMHD’s 10th anniversary as an institute at the National Institutes of Health. As the year began, we could not have foreseen the disruptions and devastation that a global pandemic would cause. Although many would say we could have predicted the exacerbation of health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities and all working people with the onset of COVID-19, its impact has revealed so much about the inequities within the fabric of our nation. While the nation (and the world) grappled with how best to deal with our new public health crisis, NIMHD pressed ahead to be a part of the solutions. We expanded the breadth and depth of our work with new collaborations, research programs and resources in support of our mission to improve minority health and reduce health disparities.

Before the pandemic shut the nation down, we were fortunate to hold NIMHD’s first scientific symposium, marking our milestone year, hosting over 2,000 in-person and virtual attendees. Focusing on themes of partnership, innovation, and the role of social and health determinants in health disparities, we created a path for further exploration and research initiatives. Continue reading “NIMHD 10: A Year in Review and a Path Forward”

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The Power of Trust and Truth

CEAL OpEd Social Card_English 11.20.2020

Getting and sharing the facts about COVID-19, trusting science can help turn tide for pandemic-strapped communities of color

NOTE: This post originally appeared as an Op-Ed on BlackDoctor.org and in La Vision Newspaper

Co-authored by
Gary H. Gibbons, M.D., Director National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute
Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., Director National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

COVID-19 has killed more than 230,000 people in the U.S., and the death toll continues to rise at a rate of about 1,000 per day [see recent data at CDC]. We know, however, that families and communities don’t count their losses in thousands or hundreds; they count them one-by-one – a father, a teacher, a sister, a friend, a nurse, a son, a Tribal elder, a church member. And these losses hurt. Continue reading “The Power of Trust and Truth”

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Carving My Own Path: From First-Generation Latina Undergraduate Student to Minority Health Researcher

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By Saida Coreas, B.S.
Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow
Division of Intramural Research, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Saida Coreas, B.S. Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow

Saida Coreas, B.S. Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow

Hoping to build a stable life away from civil war, my parents immigrated to the United States from El Salvador. Growing up, I experienced firsthand the barriers to health care access and utilization within my household and in my community. My mother and father suffered from heart disease and cancer, respectively. Like many immigrant families, my siblings and I often served as translators and health advocates when it came to doctor visits or medication use/instructions. As a child, I would have never imagined how these cumulative actions would lead to my pursuit in understanding the need to reduce and encourage the elimination of health disparities in my adult life. Today, I am a part of that driving force to make a positive change for my family, my community, and generations after me.

About a year and a half ago, I packed my bags and moved across the country from Los Angeles to begin my post-baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (Postbac IRTA) fellowship in Bethesda, Maryland. The NIH Postbac IRTA fellowship is a 1-to 2-year research opportunity for recent college graduates interested in applying to graduate or professional health school (e.g., medicine, dental, nursing, veterinary sciences). Continue reading “Carving My Own Path: From First-Generation Latina Undergraduate Student to Minority Health Researcher”

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NIMHD Investigator Forums on the Impact of COVID-19 on Research Communities

NIMHD Co-authors - COVID-19 PI Forum

Jennifer Alvidrez, Ph.D.
Rick Berzon, Dr.P.H., P.A.
Dorothy Castille, Ph.D.
Nancy L. Jones, Ph.D., M.A.
CDR Nadra Tyus, Dr.P.H., M.P.H.
Division of Scientific Programs

The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak has strained daily life for people living in the United States, affecting nearly every sector including biomedical research. The disruption has also disproportionally affected the lives and livelihoods of populations that experience health disparities, which are also the populations that NIMHD’s research addresses.

To provide an opportunity to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on researchers and research funded by the institute, NIMHD hosted four COVID-19 NIMHD Investigator Forums this summer. NIMHD staff who hosted the events were Drs. Jennifer Alvidrez, Rick Berzon, Dorothy Castille, Nancy Jones and Nadra Tyus.  We knew that the COVID-19 pandemic created many challenges for our research community and learned of the creative strategies they developed to navigate these challenges using their extensive connections with health disparity communities.  We structured the forum to hear directly from NIMHD Principal Investigators (PIs) about their observations and thoughts in three areas:

1) Impact of COVID-19 on the communities where research is conducted
2) Strategies to modify recruitment, data collection, and/or intervention protocols
3) Understanding and addressing the impact of the pandemic on study outcomes. Continue reading “NIMHD Investigator Forums on the Impact of COVID-19 on Research Communities”

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