Embargoed for Release
Monday, September 27, 2010
4 p.m. EDT
Kester Williams

NIH announces Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Transition from center to institute highlights expanded responsibilities

The National Institutes of Health announces the transition of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) to the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). The transition gives the institute a more defined role in the NIH's research agenda against health disparities, which it defines as differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of diseases and other adverse health conditions that exist among specific population groups.

The move authorizes the NIMHD to plan, coordinate, review and evaluate all minority health and health disparities research activities conducted and supported by the NIH institutes and centers, and it reaffirms the authority of the NIMHD director as the primary federal official with responsibility for coordinating such activities. Under its previous designation, the center coordinated the health disparities research activities of NIH’s other institutes and centers. The re-designation was made possible by the Affordable Care Act.

"We have made some progress towards eliminating health disparities. Yet there is much unfinished business," said John Ruffin, Ph.D., NIMHD director. "We have to reexamine our strategy and accelerate the pace through innovative, sustainable and results-oriented approaches. Our goal is to establish an integrated research enterprise, building upon lessons learned and working with our many partners to address the complexity of health disparities."

The law transfers all of the responsibilities of the NCMHD provided under the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act to the new institute. This includes responsibility for coordinating the development of the NIH health disparities research agenda. In addition, it expands the eligibility criteria of the NIMHD Research Endowment program to include active NIMHD Centers of Excellence.

"I congratulate Dr. Ruffin and his staff on the center becoming an institute," Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., NIH director, said. "This change by Congress reflects the importance of studying the issue of health disparities with an even greater intensity. We need to learn much more about what causes disparities — including the role of society, the environment, and genes — and to find effective ways of overcoming or changing them."

The transition to an institute is the culmination of years of work to bring attention to and find solutions for the unequal burden of illness affecting minority, rural and poor populations in this country. Over the last two decades, NIMHD has made significant strides towards ending health disparities. Collaboration with other NIH institutes and centers as well as other federal agencies has been the hallmark of its success as it evolved from the Office of Research on Minority Health to NCMHD and now an institute.

The NIMHD through its predecessor NCMHD, has supported the training of more than 2,000 health professionals with an interest in health disparities research through loan repayment awards. It has funded more than 88 centers of excellence around the nation to conduct research on health disparities in many disciplines and on a variety of topics. NIMHD assisted academic institutions in developing their capacity to conduct biomedical research with an emphasis on health disparities; community-based participatory research was introduced to the scientific community as a viable approach to studying health disparities with the involvement of the community in all aspects of research; and the center organized and sponsored the first NIH Science of Eliminating Health Disparities summit to review the state of health disparities research. Among the research priorities for the new institute are the social determinants of health, patient-centered outcomes research; faith-based approaches to health disparities; and improving the participation of health disparity populations in clinical trials.

NIMHD is a part of NIH that promotes minority health, conducts and supports research, training, research infrastructure, fosters emerging programs, disseminates information, and reaches out to minority and other health disparity communities. For more information on the Institute’s programs, see http://www.ncmhd.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

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