News Release

Thursday, October 5, 2017

NIH to fund Centers of Excellence on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Twelve specialized research centers designed to conduct multidisciplinary research, research training, and community engagement activities focused on improving minority health and reducing health disparities will launch. The centers, to be funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), part of the National Institutes of Health, will share approximately $82 million over five years, pending the availability of funds.

Health disparity populations experience a disproportionate burden of preventable diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, along with exposure to substance abuse, violence, and trauma.  These populations include racial and ethnic minority groups, underserved rural populations, people of less privileged socioeconomic status, along with groups subject to discrimination who have poorer health outcomes often attributed to being socially disadvantaged. 

The Centers of Excellence (COE)’s program fosters collaborative research in minority health and health disparities that will identify critical biological, behavioral, environmental, sociocultural and health systems factors to aid in developing optimal interventions that will reduce targeted health disparities.

“We need strong collaborations and research based upon asking the right questions in specific areas. The Centers of Excellence are poised to emphasize scientific inquiry that will promote health equity,” said NIMHD Director Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable.

The Centers of Excellence (COEs) program will help:

  • Support innovative multi- and transdisciplinary research to promote minority health and reduce health disparities
  • Strengthen exemplary research training and education activities to support the development of well-trained researchers, including those from minority and health disparity populations
  • Increase the number of individuals from minority and other health disparity populations participating in research activities
  • Provide support for engaging minority and other health disparity communities in effective and sustainable activities aimed at improving the health of their communities

Each NIMHD COE will have a specific unifying focus that will directly and demonstrably impact minority health and health disparities in that topic area. The focus of each COE will revolve around at least one of the NIH-designated health disparity populations or a subpopulation within a health disparity population. Additionally, the COEs may include specific disease areas that disproportionately affect disparity populations and contribute substantially to health outcomes, and/or prevention topics that cut across health conditions and populations.

The NIMHD COEs program, established by the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-525), has played a vital role in realizing NIMHD’s mission to support research in minority health and health disparities, promote the training of a diverse research workforce, disseminate research findings, and foster innovative collaborations and partnerships. Each center includes community organizations, academic institutions, clinicians, and health care systems, as well as state and local public health agencies. The research programs translate community needs into practice at local clinics, churches, and community centers.

The 12 COE grantees and their areas of focus are:

Leveraging Bio-Cultural Mechanisms to Maximize the Impact of Multi-Level Preventable Disease Interventions with Southwest Populations
Flavio Marsiglia, Ph.D.
Arizona State University, Tempe

Researchers will study potentially modifiable youth behaviors, such as physical activity, quality of diet, family functioning, acculturation, and substance use, that are associated with cardiac and metabolic diseases and substance abuse disorders. Further, they will investigate how protective and risk factors common to various chronic diseases and disorders manifest among racial and ethnic minority populations of the Southwest and will develop culturally appropriate interventions.

Involving Communities in Delivering and Disseminating Health Disparity Interventions
Ashwini Sehgal, M.D.
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland

Researchers will train lay health advisors to help African American patients control their hypertension. They will also engage community members, through training, mentoring and collaborative activities, to increase input in and translation of research findings for sustainable community and system-level changes that will have a measurable impact on minority health and health disparities. 

Duke Center for REsearch to AdvanCe Healthcare Equity
Kimberly Johnson, M.D.
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Researchers will study the effect of a clinician communication coaching intervention—teaching empathic skills and eliciting participatory behaviors—on the quality of communication in cardiology encounters with African American patients; test the use of a mobile app for African American patients receiving palliative care in the ICU and their families to self-report needs, obtain information about patient/family needs, and access decisional support; and develop and pilot test an implicit bias training intervention for providers.

Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions
Darrell J. Gaskin, Ph.D.
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

Researchers will study the impact of place-based determinants—physical/built environment, sociocultural environment, and the healthcare system—in health disparities among African Americans. Studies will investigate physical/built environments (i.e., contextual/distal factors that influence outcomes such as household, neighborhood, and community level factors) sociocultural environment (e.g., family and community norms, social networks, and segregation, socioeconomic status, and language), and the healthcare system (e.g., local healthcare, regulatory environment, and policy level factors).

Center for the Study of Asian American Health
Chau Trinh-Shevrin, Dr.P.H.
New York University School of Medicine, New York City

Researchers will conduct two research studies, one on diabetes and one on stomach cancer, to address the knowledge gap in sustainable, scalable health interventions coordinated with health care systems and community-based providers, using innovative and rigorous approaches to harness the power of community health workers, technology, and electronic health record–based strategies in ways that have not been adapted or systematically tested among Asian American communities, to improve access to care.

Obesity Health Disparities Research Center
Mona Fouad, M.D., M.P.H.
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Using the state of Alabama as a model, investigators will conduct transdisciplinary, multi-level, multi- domain research on obesity-related health disparities to understand the complex contributors and interactions between biological, behavioral and social factors; how they vary at critical periods across the life course; and to develop interventions to address these contributors.

Arkansas Center for Health Disparities
James Raczynski, Ph.D.
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock

Researchers will use a community health worker model to reduce chronic disease risk factors through two interventions geared toward socially disadvantaged African American populations, including female African American tobacco users in rural communities and recently incarcerated African Americans at high risk of contracting HIV.

The Center for American Indian and Alaska Native Health Disparities
Spero M. Manson, Ph.D. and Lonnie A. Nelson, Ph.D.
University of Colorado, Denver

Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias have become major health concerns in American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities. Emphasizing partnerships across private, tribal, and public constituencies that incorporate cognitive impairment, dementia, and ADRD within a precision medicine framework, the center will promote a scientifically rigorous, culturally informed, patient-centered research program to develop more precise approaches to address such conditions in AI/AN populations, and use inclusion science to engage AI/ANs in such research.

Center for Health Equity Research (CHER)
Robert Andrew Winn, M.D.
University of Illinois at Chicago

The overall goal of CHER is to advance the science of health disparities by examining how structural violence contributes to disparities among African American, Latino, and Asian American (and their intersecting sexual minority) populations. Researchers will study community stressors and racial disparities in colorectal cancer risk, intergenerational transmission of racialized stress and cardiovascular disease risk in Latino families, and exposure to violence, trauma, resilience, and mental health in Southeast Asian immigrants.

Center for Latino Health Research Opportunities
Victoria Behar Mitrani, Ph.D. and Mario R. De La Rosa, Ph.D.
University of Miami, Florida

Investigators will conduct and promote research to advance interventions tailored for Latino groups who experience the greatest health risks, such as seasonal farmworkers, sexual/gender minority individuals, and youth. The focus will be on community-based interventions that can have the greatest impact by addressing the root causes of the intertwined health conditions of substance abuse, violence/trauma, and HIV/AIDS.

Transdisciplinary Research, Equity, and Engagement Center for Advancing Behavioral Health
Lisa Marie Cacari-Stone, Ph.D.
University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque

Researchers will focus on behavioral health disparities among socioeconomically disadvantaged and underserved rural populations, with a Southwest regional focus on American Indian/Alaska Native and Latino populations in New Mexico, highlighting the social determinants of behavioral health (including adverse childhood experiences, historical trauma, and intersectional effects of poverty and discrimination), to improve conditions and outcomes related to youth suicide, alcohol and drug misuse, depression, and access to behavioral health services.

Texas Center for Minority Health, Education, Research, and Outreach
Jamboor K. Vishwanatha, Ph.D.
University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth

Researchers will focus on women’s health disparities testing a patient-centered, community pharmacy-based comprehensive medication therapy management program for HIV patients and conducting an intervention to improve health behaviors among women in underserved communities. In addition, they will provide opportunities for junior faculty, and early stage investigators to train in health disparity research and to serve as a resource for minority communities in North Texas to disseminate health information and implement disease prevention activities.

NIMHD is one of NIH’s 27 Institutes and Centers. It leads scientific research to improve minority health and eliminate health disparities by conducting and supporting research; planning, reviewing, coordinating, and evaluating all minority health and health disparities research at NIH; promoting and supporting the training of a diverse research workforce; translating and disseminating research information; and fostering collaborations and partnerships. For more information about NIMHD, visit

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

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