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National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Mission

The National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) promotes minority health and leads, coordinates, supports, and assesses the NIH effort to reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities. The NCMHD works independently and in partnership with the NIH Institutes and Centers, other Federal agencies, and other non-federal groups and organizations to improve health and address the disparities in health status. To achieve its mission, the NCMHD:

  • Conduct and support basic, clinical, social and behavioral health disparities research;
  • Promote infrastructure development and training;
  • Foster emerging programs;
  • Disseminate information; and
  • Reach out to minority and other health disparities communities.

Vision

The NCMHD envisions an America in which all populations will have an equal opportunity to live long, healthy and productive lives.

Important Events in NCMHD History

1990—The Office of Minority Programs (OMP) was established in the NIH Office of the Director, at the request of then Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Louis Sullivan. Dr. John Ruffin was appointed Associate Director of Minority Programs to direct the OMP.

1991— The OMP convened an advisory Fact-Finding Team (FFT) to conduct three regional conferences with grassroots constituencies. The FFT issued a report with 13 recommendations from the community that guided the initial efforts of the OMP.

1992—The Minority Health Initiative (MHI), the centerpiece of the OMP agenda, was launched in response to the FFT’s recommendations, and initially funded at $45 million. This multi-year biomedical and behavioral research and research training program is a partnership with the NIH Institutes and Centers. The OMP co-funded various projects including: 1) interventions to improve prenatal health and reduce infant mortality; 2) studies of childhood and adolescent lead poisoning; HIV infection and AIDS; 3) alcohol and drug use studies; 4) research in adult populations focused on cancer, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, mental disorders, asthma, visual impairments, and alcohol abuse; and 5) training for faculty and for students at all stages of the educational pipeline —from precollege and undergraduate through graduate and postdoctoral levels.

1992—The OMP initiated a study with the National Academy of Sciences designed to present an overview of NIH extramural research training programs for minority students and to assess the feasibility of conducting a trans-NIH assessment of these programs.

1993—Public Law 103-43, the Health Revitalization Act of 1993, established the Office of Research on Minority Health (ORMH) in the Office of the Director, NIH. Dr. John Ruffin was appointed as the Associate Director for Research on Minority Health.

1994—The National Conference on Minority Health Research and Research Training was held in Chicago.

1996—Conferences were held in Honolulu, Hawaii; Miami, Florida; and Puerto Rico to inform ORMH constituencies of the progress made, to solicit feedback on those achievements, and to obtain information on the needs of minority populations.

1997—The Advisory Committee on Research on Minority Health was established to provide advice to the Director, ORMH, and to the Director, NIH, regarding research and research training with respect to minority health issues.

1998—The first meeting of the Advisory Committee on Minority Health was held.

2000—The ORMH celebrated its 10th anniversary with a conference entitled Closing the Minority Health Gap: 10 Years of Progress and Challenge in Eliminating Health Disparities

2000—The National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) was established by the passage of the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act of 2000, Public Law 106-525, which was signed by the President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, on November 22, 2000. The bill was introduced into the Congress by Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

2001—Dr. John Ruffin was sworn in as the first director of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

2001—Programs mandated by Congress were implemented to expand the infrastructure of Institutions committed to health disparities research and to encourage the recruitment and retention of highly qualified minority and other scientists in the fields of biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and health services research: (1) the Endowment Program, (2) the Loan Repayment Program for Health Disparities Research, and (3) the Extramural Clinical Research Loan Repayment Program for Individuals from Disadvantaged Backgrounds.

2002—The Congressionally mandated program, Centers of Excellence program was launched, referred to as Project EXPORT –Partnerships for Community Outreach, Research on Health Disparities and Training.

2002—The first meeting of the National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NACMHD) was convened.

2002—The NCMHD assumed responsibility for the Research Infrastructure in Minority Institutions Program (RIMI), which was established by its predecessor ORMH, in partnership with the National Center for Research Resources.

2003—The first NIH Strategic Research Plan and Budget to Reduce and Ultimately Eliminate Health Disparities was issued.

2005—The NCMHD assumed responsibility for the Minority International Research Training Program (MIRT) which was established by its predecessor ORMH in partnership with Fogarty International Center (FIC). The program was renamed to be more consistent with the mission of the NCMHD to the Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training Program (MHIRT).

2005—The NCMHD Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) program was established. This program supports community-based participatory research intervention studies to reduce health disparities caused by diseases or conditions affecting minority and other health disparity communities. NCMHD is currently funding 25 CBPR three-year planning grants.

2005—The National Research Council of the National Academies released the report Assessment of NIH Minority Research and Training Programs: Phase 3. The report was the culmination of a series of assessments and analyses of the NIH minority research and training programs initiated by the ORMH, the predecessor to the NCMHD. This report examined the effectiveness of the programs and provided recommendations for improvement.

2006—The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies issued the report Examining the Health Disparities Research Plan of the National Institutes of Health: Unfinished Business. The NCMHD requested this report to assess the adequacy of the NIH Health Disparities Strategic Plan in achieving the goals and objectives; to evaluate the adequacy of coordination among the NIH Institutes and Centers in developing the strategic plan; and to obtain recommendations to help NIH achieve the objectives of the strategic plan.

2007—The NCMHD Centers of Excellence in Partnerships for Community Outreach, Research on Health Disparities and Training (Project EXPORT), was re-competed for the first time. The program was also renamed the NCMHD Centers of Excellence program.

2008— NCMHD hosted the first NIH Science of Eliminating Health Disparities summit on December 16-18, 2008. The summit attracted more than 4,000 participants including scientists, health care practitioners, and policy makers, community leaders, and students who work or have an interest in eliminating health disparities. Acclaimed poet Maya Angelou spoke at the opening ceremony.

2008—NIH Director, Dr. Elias Zerhouni approved an Intramural Research Program (IRP) for the NCMHD. Acting NIH Director, Dr. Raynard Kington announced the creation of the NCMHD IRP at the NIH Science of Eliminating Health Disparities summit.

2009—NCMHD launched its Health Disparities Research on Minority and Underserved Populations program. This Research Project Grant (R01), funds original and innovative research addressing elements that support the advancement of research to eliminate health disparities.

2009—NCMHD launched the NIH Health Disparities Seminar Series in July 2009. The monthly lecture series brings national and international health disparities experts including NIH and federal agency partners to the NIH to share information about advances, gaps, and current issues related to health disparities research.

2009—The NCMHD Disparities Research and Education Advancing our Mission (DREAM) program was launched as a component of the NCMHD Intramural Research Program.

2009—The Research Infrastructure in Minority Institutions Program (RIMI) was renamed the Building Research Infrastructure and Capacity (BRIC) program, to be more consistent with the mission of NCMHD.

2009—NCMHD partnered with the NIH Office of Intramural Research to sponsor the 2009 NIH J. Edward Rall Cultural Lecture as part of the NIH Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series, featuring  Dr. Maya Angelou.

NCMHD Legislative History

1993—P.L. 103-43, the Health Revitalization Act of 1993, established the Office of Research on Minority Health in the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health.

2000—P.L. 106-525, Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act of 2000, established the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. It also called for the development of a NIH comprehensive strategic research plan and budget for health disparities research. It authorizes the NCMHD Director and the Director of the Agency for Health care Research Quality (AHRQ) to define health disparity populations. The law also requires the NCMHD to maintain communications with all Public Health Service agencies and other Departments of the Federal government to disseminate health disparities research information.

Biographical Sketch
John Ruffin, Ph.D., NCMHD Director

Dr. John Ruffin is the Director of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD). He oversees the NCMHD budget of approximately $200 million. In addition, he provides leadership for the minority health and health disparities research activities of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which constitutes an annual budget of approximately $2.6 billion.

He is a well-respected leader and visionary in the field of minority health and health disparities. As an academician and a scientist, he has devoted his professional career to improving the health status of racial and ethnic minorities and other medically underserved populations in the United States. He has an impressive track record of developing and supporting programs to increase the cadre of minority scientists, physicians, and other health professionals, as well as attract a diverse group of researchers to the health disparities field.

His success has been due in large part to his ability to motivate others and gain the support of key individuals and organizations, as well as to his expertise in strategic planning, administration, and the development of numerous collaborative partnerships. For almost 20 years, he has led the transformation of the NIH minority health and health disparities research agenda from a programmatic concept to an institutional reality. He has served as the Associate Director for Minority Programs, Office of Minority Programs; and the Associate Director for Research on Minority Health, Office of Research on Minority Health.

As the NIH federal official for minority health disparities research, through multi-faceted collaborations, he has planned and brought to fruition the largest biomedical research program in the nation to promote minority health and other health disparities research and training.  In his quest to eliminate health disparities, the hallmark of his approach is to foster and expand strategic partnerships in alliance with the NIH Institutes and Centers, various Federal and state agencies, community organizations, academic institutions, private sector leaders, and international governments and non-governmental organizations. Under his leadership, the NIH convened its first summit on health disparities, “The NIH Science of Eliminating Health Disparities Summit” in December 2008. The summit showcased the work, progress, and challenges of the NIH Institutes and Centers and many of their federal and non-federal government partners involved in minority health and health disparities research around the theme of Integrating Science, Practice, and Policy. The summit attracted more than 4000 individuals from around the world representing various disciplines and sectors. 

Dr. Ruffin is committed to conceptualizing, developing and implementing innovative programs that create new learning opportunities and exposure for individuals, communities, and academic institutions interested in eliminating health disparities. His efforts have impacted local, regional, national and international communities. He has established and continues to expand a growing portfolio of research, training, and capacity building programs to train health professionals and scientists from health disparity populations; conduct cutting-edge health disparities research; build the capacity at academic institutions and within the community to support a promising health disparities research enterprise.

His life-long commitment to academic excellence, improving minority health and promoting training and health disparities research, has earned him distinguished national awards. Dr. Ruffin has received an honorary doctor of science degree from Spelman College, Tuskegee University, the University of Massachusetts in Boston, North Carolina State University, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Meharry Medical College. He has been recognized by various professional, non-profit, and advocacy organizations including: the National Medical Association, the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science; the Association of American Indian Physicians, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities; the Society of Black Academic Surgeons; and the National Science Foundation. The John Ruffin Scholarship Program is an honor symbolic of his legacy for academic excellence bestowed by the Duke University Talent Identification Program. He has also received the Martin Luther King Jr., Legacy Award for National Service, the Samuel L. Kountz Award for his significant contribution to increasing minority access to organ and tissue transplantation; the NIH Director’s Award; the National Hispanic Leadership Award; Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society Award; the Department of Health and Human Services’ Special Recognition Award; and the U.S. Presidential Merit Award.  

Dr. Ruffin received a B.S. in Biology from Dillard University, a M.S. in Biology from Atlanta University, a Ph.D. in Systematic and Developmental Biology from Kansas State University, and completed post-doctoral studies in biology at Harvard University.

Programs

Three official organizational components comprise NCMHD:

The Office of the Director (OD)

The Office of the Director provides overall leadership and direction to the programs, plans, and activities of the NCMHD. It determines the goals and priorities of the Center, serves as the focal point for the coordination of the NIH minority health and health disparities research programs as authorized, and develops and directs new and special scientific programs of the Center. The OD leads the Center's coordination of programs and strategic partnerships with the NIH Institutes and Centers, Federal agencies, and other stakeholders; provides management and administrative services to the Center; oversees the Center's ethics program; and plans and directs the Center's communications activities, including developing and disseminating information on minority health and health disparities research.

Division of Extramural Activities and Scientific Programs (DEASP)

This division serves as the focal point for planning, directing, implementing, and managing the NCMHD extramural research programs. The DEASP provides leadership for the NCMHD's legislatively mandated extramural research programs and other NCMHD research, research training, research capacity building, career development, and community outreach programs. It also directs the scientific peer review and grants management activities for all NCMHD programs ensuring that all awards are made in accordance with applicable policies, statutes and regulations.

Division of Scientific Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis (DSSPPA)

This division provides leadership for scientific strategic planning, evaluation, knowledge management, reporting, legislative affairs, and policy activities relative to the mission of NCMHD. The DSSPPA serves as the focal point for coordinating reports including the development of the legislatively mandated trans-NIH Health Disparities Strategic Plan, and monitoring and assessment of the trans-NIH minority health/health disparities research programs. It also advises the NCMHD staff on policy matters that support program development, science policy formulation, and overall program direction and decision-making activities.

NCMHD Leading Programs:

The Centers of Excellence Program (COE) is congressionally mandated by Public Law 106-525. The program was established to develop novel programs in the U.S. that would make significant advances and contributions to easing the health burden in underserved populations and in reducing and ultimately eliminating health disparities in several priority diseases and conditions. This strategy helps to increase the pool of investigators from health disparity populations through research training and faculty development. In addition, the collaborations help disseminate health information to underserved populations and increase the participation of health disparity populations in clinical trials. The program has funded studies on numerous diseases/conditions including breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancers; human papillomavirus, HIV, and cardiovascular disease.

The Research Endowment Program is congressionally mandated by Public Law 106-525. The program was established to provide endowments to eligible academic institutions to support minority health and health disparities research. The educational institutions must use interest from the grants to a) build the capacity for research or research training which may include renovating facilities, improving technology or updated equipment; b) recruit and develop a diverse faculty, as well as create courses concerning health disparities research methodology; and c) advance recruitment and training of students from underrepresented and socio-economically disadvantaged populations who plan to pursue scientific careers.

The Loan Repayment Program (LRP) NCMHD offers two types of loan repayment programs. The Health Disparities Research Loan Repayment Program is mandated by the Congress to increase the pool of extramural researchers who conduct health disparities research. The Extramural Clinical Research Loan Repayment Program extends to health professionals from disadvantaged backgrounds who engage in clinical research. Eligible candidates are health professionals with post doctoral degrees who are not federally employed and interested in conducting basic, clinical, behavioral, social sciences or health services research addressing health disparities.

The Community Based Participatory Research Program (CBPR) is designed to promote collaborative research between scientific researchers and members of their community through the joint design and implementation of intervention research projects targeting health disparities in underserved populations including racial and ethnic minorities, rural populations, and individuals of low socio-economic status.

The ultimate goal is to foster sustainable efforts at the community level that will accelerate the translation of research advances to health disparity populations and eliminate health disparities. The CBPR Initiative has three phases. It starts with a three year planning grant, followed by a competitive five year intervention grant and concludes with a competitive three year information dissemination grant. This is a long term commitment by the NCMHD with potential funding for up to eleven years in individual CBPR projects.

The Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training Program (MHIRT) supports young scientists conducting scientific research abroad. It offers short-term international training opportunities in health disparities research for undergraduate and graduate students in the health professions who are from health disparity populations. Grantees work with international health investigators in countries around the world including Mexico, Uganda, Ghana, Australia, Peru, Spain and South Africa.

The Building Research Infrastructure and Capacity (BRIC) Program supports the development of sustainable research programs at non-research intensive institutions of higher education.  The primary goal is to build, strengthen, and/or enhance the research infrastructure and research training capacity of non-research intensive institutions.

The Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Program is a highly competitive federal program mandated by the Congress as a part of the Small Business Development Act. Each year designated federal departments and agencies award a reserved portion of their research and development funds to small businesses and to partnerships between small businesses and nonprofit research institutions to bring innovative technologies to market. The NCMHD SBIR/STTR Programs give high priority to research activities designed to empower health disparity communities to achieve health equity through health education, disease prevention, and community-based, problem driven research.

The Health Disparities Research on Minority and Underserved Populations Program, a NIH Research Project Grant (R01) program, supports original and innovative research addressing elements that eliminate health disparities.  It also supports the study of diseases/conditions that contribute to poor health outcomes or disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minority populations, rural and urban poor, and other health disparity populations. 

Disparities Research and Education Advancing Mission (DREAM) Career Transition Award is the NCMHD’s first intramural program.  It facilitates the transition of early stage investigators involved in health disparities research from the mentored stage of career development to become independent investigators. DREAM grants provide an opportunity for investigators to develop solid research skills during the initial period of up to two years of study and research within the NIH Intramural Research Programs located on the NIH campus.  The award may also include a follow-on period of up to three years of salary and mentored research support at the candidate’s current institution or organization or an academic or research grantee institution of the candidate's choice.  This period of extramural support will facilitate the transition to independence as a researcher in health disparities research.

This page was last reviewed on March 23, 2010 .
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