Minority Health

Can Paid Maternity Leave Help Address Disparities in Maternal Mortality?

By Rada Dagher, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Program Director
Division of Scientific Programs
Clinical and Health Services Research
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Dr. Rada Dagher

Dr. Rada Dagher

Maternal mortality rates in the United States have reached an all-time high. While these rates have dropped globally in the last few decades1, in the United States, they have more than doubled between 1987 and 20152. The picture is even grimmer for racial and ethnic minority communities, where African American and American Indian/Alaska Native women have the highest maternal mortality rates of all racial/ethnic groups2.

While most of the discussions about the maternal mortality crisis focus on the physical causes of death, the relationship between maternal mental health and mortality rates is largely ignored. For example, postpartum depression leads the list of mental health conditions affecting new mothers, and women experiencing this disorder may have suicidal thoughts and thoughts of harming the baby3. The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic that is causing COVID-19 disease outbreaks is another factor to consider. Due to social distancing, women have much lower access to the usual support systems (e.g. family, doulas) that promote their mental health during the vulnerable period of transitioning into motherhood. Recently published data from China on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic suggests increased rates of postpartum depression4 among Chinese women. Moreover, a recent report from a convenience sample of U.S. mothers of children of ages 0-18 months, shows elevated depression (34.1%) and anxiety (34.6%) rates5. Yet, the currently proposed interventions to address maternal mortality do not consider approaches to prevent and/or treat postpartum depression. One such approach is providing paid leave for new mothers. Continue reading “Can Paid Maternity Leave Help Address Disparities in Maternal Mortality?”

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Spotlight on COVID-19 and Health Disparities: Opportunities to Achieve Better Understanding and Equality for Vulnerable Populations

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

Photo of NIMHD Director Eliseo J. Perez-Stable

The year 2020 will be remembered in history as one that changed the way we live as a result of a new global pandemic and the unequal effects on specific communities. The novel SARS-Cov-2 virus that has caused the COVID-19 global pandemic, has caused a societal awakening to the issues of existing health disparities and inequities in health care. The data we have for race and ethnicity present a stark reality: African American, Latino, American Indian and Pacific Islander populations are bearing a disproportionate burden of the disease.

As the NIMHD Director, I have had multiple opportunities to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on disparity and other vulnerable populations and share my thoughts on what the biomedical community can do and is doing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this blog post, I will highlight two recent examples of these opportunities to place a spotlight on mitigating the COVID-19 burden on minority health and health disparities. Continue reading “Spotlight on COVID-19 and Health Disparities: Opportunities to Achieve Better Understanding and Equality for Vulnerable Populations”

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The Way Forward for Sleep Health Disparities Research

By Nancy Jones, Ph.D., M.A.
Scientific Program Officer, Community Health and Population Sciences
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Populations that experience health disparities also experience sleep deficiencies, such as insufficient or long sleep duration, poor sleep quality, and irregular timing of sleep. These sleep experiences are associated with a wide range of suboptimal health outcomes, high risk health behaviors, and poorer overall functioning and wellbeing. In 2018, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, along with our NIH colleagues at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research convened a workshop with experts in sleep, circadian rhythms and health disparities to stimulate research that would address two questions, 1) what are the underlying health disparity causal pathways contributing to sleep health disparities (SHDs) and 2) could SHDs, at least in part, explain disparities in other health outcomes for these populations?

The Workshop Report1 published in the Sleep journal is the distillation of hundreds of ideas into five areas and nine strategies. Continue reading “The Way Forward for Sleep Health Disparities Research”

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The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Blog Series

Yukiko Asada, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine
Dalhousie University
Nova Scotia, Canada

 

A Lesson from Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Health Disparities Wonderland  

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“—so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
(Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland1)

Photo of Dr. Yukiko Asada

Dr. Yukiko Asada

Expressing truth about life, this conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat is beloved and used in many contexts. Its profound power as a metaphor can also be applied to the science of measurement of health disparities. In Health Disparities Wonderland, Alice might ask, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here to put an end to health disparities?” “That depends a good deal on what you mean by health disparities and how you measure and understand them,” would reply the Cat.

In “Harmonizing health disparities measurement” in the special issue of American Journal of Public Health,2 we argued for the science of measurement of health disparities. We believed by now few health disparities researchers and policy-makers would actually answer as Alice would, “I don’t much care about measurement.” But it is not enough for each of us to care. In the article, we urged all of us in the field of health disparities to engage in a community-wide consensus building for harmonization in measurement practice. Continue reading “The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Blog Series”

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Guest Blog Post: Talent in Biomedical Research Is Universal; Opportunity Is Not

NIDDK programs provide opportunity for underrepresented groups to blaze a scientific path

This is part of a NIMHD Insights blog series featuring NIH Institute and Center Directors who are highlighting their institutes’ initiatives, training, resources and funding opportunities relevant to minority health and health disparities research. The series links NIMHD stakeholders to relevant information and opportunities across NIH.

This post is from the director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). NIDDK conducts and supports medical research and research training to disseminate science-based information on diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases, nutritional disorders, and obesity; and kidney, urologic, and hematologic diseases, to improve people’s health and quality of life. 

By Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., M.A.C.P.
Director, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers

Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers

Recently, we received a thank you note from a student who participated in a National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) program that provides research training to high school and college students from underrepresented groups. A year ago, the student wrote, she had no idea what scientists did, and now she teaches laboratory procedures to other students. She was also selected to present her work at the 2019 American Society for Nephrology’s Kidney Week.

This aspiring scientist, a first-generation college student, took part in NIDDK’s Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons (STEP-UP), and stories like hers support our Institute’s efforts to build a strong pipeline of talented, diverse biomedical researchers. Continue reading “Guest Blog Post: Talent in Biomedical Research Is Universal; Opportunity Is Not”

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The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research

Diverse group of students eating lunch
Obesity Post - school lunch v2

Co-authored by
Tanya Agurs-Collins, Ph.D., RD
Health Behaviors Research Branch
Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences
National Cancer Institute, NIH 

Susan Persky, Ph.D.
Associate Investigator and Head of the Communication, Attitudes, and Behavior Unit
Immersive Virtual Environment Testing Area, Social and Behavioral Research Branch
National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH 

Disparities in Obesity Require Multilevel Approaches
Multilevel Approaches Require More Research

Photo of Dr. Tanya Agurs-Collins

Dr. Tanya Agurs-Collins

Photo of Dr. Susan Persky

Dr. Susan Persky

As part of the NIMHD special issue New Perspectives to Advance Minority Health and Health Disparities Research, we and our co-authors focused on designing and assessing multilevel interventions to improve minority health and reduce health disparities.1 Multilevel interventions, based on the socioecological framework2, involve intervening on at least two levels of influence at the same time. We chose this topic because multilevel interventions are an extremely challenging and often expensive undertaking that require myriad decisions and plans, yet it is becoming clear that such interventions are a necessary approach for overcoming great disparities evident in the public’s health, particularly for conditions like obesity. Continue reading “The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research”

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The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Blog Series

Silhouette of twins

By Arline T. Geronimus, Sc.D.
Professor, Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health
Research Professor, Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research
University of Michigan

Understanding Health Disparities through the Life Course

Photo of Dr. Arline T. Geronimus

Dr. Arline T. Geronimus

My monozygotic twins—now young men—never engaged in parallel play with each other. Parallel play is a type of toddler-to-preschool play where, even though two or more children are in the same room or even the same sandbox, they each remain absorbed in their own personal activity and do not interact. Yet before they could walk or talk, my sons delighted in playing together, cooperating on projects, and putting on musical performances that they would end by bowing in unison, each one’s arm around the other’s waist. They scaled higher heights, literally, than playing alone. We found them lying on the tops of our highest kitchen cabinets, giggling together, when they were 2. Even strapped into their stroller, they enacted perfectly synchronized and complexly coordinated routines we called “stroller surfing,” which were at once wonderful and hair-raising to watch and noticeably enchanting to passersby. Continue reading “The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Blog Series”

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New Blog Series on the Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research

AJPH Cover Images
Introduction Image_AJPH Cover

By Nancy Jones, Ph.D., M.A.
Scientific Program Officer, Community Health and Population Sciences
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

AJPH Cover ImagesThis blog series includes perspectives from authors of the American Journal of Public Health supplement, New Perspectives to Advance Minority Health and Health Disparities Research. The supplement highlights strategies to stimulate research for improving minority health and closing the gap in health disparities.

In 2015, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) began an initiative to create a scientific vision to transform minority health and health disparities. I served as a co-chair for one of the three pillars for the visioning process with several other NIMHD colleagues and guest editor for a supplement of the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), entitled New Perspectives to Advance Minority Health and Health Disparities Research. Continue reading “New Blog Series on the Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research”

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

Dr. David E. Marion

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

Photo of Dr. David E. Marion

Dr. David E. Marion

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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Find Your Path to an Active and Healthy Lifestyle

radm_adams___preferr_RESZIED

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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