Director's Messages

Ending Structural Racism in Biomedical Research and Eliminating Health Disparities

UNITE Web Badge with URL_1.pngThe ODP stands with NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins, and the 27 NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices (ICs) in support of the new UNITE initiative to end structural racism and racial inequities in biomedical research. I encourage you to read and share Dr. Collins’ powerful statement about identifying and dismantling policies and practices that may harm our workforce and our science. You can learn more about the NIH’s efforts, actions, policies, and procedures via a newly launched NIH webpage on Ending Structural Racism.

Achieving racial equity in biomedical research and addressing health disparities is a complex challenge that requires sustained investment and unwavering dedication from all of us. The NIH and the ODP will continue to roll out efforts to promote equity and inclusion and eliminate structural racism, but I want to highlight several current activities:

  • The NIH issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public input on practical and effective approaches to improve and strengthen racial equity, diversity, and inclusion within the NIH and all facets of the biomedical research workforce, and expand research to eliminate or lessen health disparities and inequities. Please share your perspective and recommendations via the submission website by the extended deadline of April 23, 2021. Responses to the RFI will be published online.

  • The ODP is working closely with the UNITE committee focusing on new research on health disparities, minority health, and health equity. The committee’s charge is a formidable one that will take time, but we are privileged to be part of efforts to address long-standing health disparities and issues related to minority health inequities in the United States by ensuring NIH-wide transparency and accountability in health disparity, minority health, and health equity research.

  • The NIH Common Fund, UNITE team members, and multiple ICs including the ODP are working together to develop new initiatives to bolster innovation, solve challenges, and address emergent opportunities in health disparities research. These initiatives will support unusually innovative research projects that, if successful, would have a major impact in developing, disseminating, or implementing innovative and effective interventions that prevent, reduce, or eliminate health disparities and health inequities. The Common Fund will issue two funding opportunities later this year as part of the UNITE initiative. More information will be posted on the Common Fund’s website as it becomes available.

  • The ODP is contributing to the development of a Common Fund program in health disparities research that is planned to launch in fiscal year 2023. The strategic planning process will include a careful assessment of the current landscape of health disparities research and engagement with stakeholder communities. To receive updates about the Common Fund’s initiatives in health disparities research, please sign up for their listserv: CFHealthDisparitiesResearch-List.

  • Interested in related work?

    The Pathways to Prevention Workshop: Achieving Health Equity in Preventive Services identified gaps and future priorities for research on disparities in the use of clinical services for early detection and prevention of common chronic conditions like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

    A critical part of reducing health disparities involves addressing the leading risk factors for death and disability, many of which can be prevented, delayed, or caught and treated early. Given how important effective prevention measures are to improving health outcomes, the ODP is working with our NIH colleagues on a plan to increase prevention research on interventions to address the leading risk factors for death and disability and access to preventive services in populations impacted by health disparities. We hope to release more information in the coming months, so please follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our listserv to get the latest updates.

I—and all the ODP staff—look forward to working with you in the years to come as we make progress toward ending structural racism in biomedical research and eliminating health disparities in our country.