NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

NIH Designates People with Disabilities as a Population with Health Disparities

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In September, Dr. Eliseo Pérez-Stable, director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), designated people with disabilities as a population with health disparities for research supported by NIH. The designation is one of several steps NIH is taking to ensure people with disabilities are represented in NIH research.

“Toward this effort, NIMHD and other NIH institutes launched a new research program to better understand the health disparities faced by people with disabilities who are also part of other populations designated as having health disparities,” said Pérez-Stable.

NIMHD is the lead NIH institute on monitoring minority health and health disparities research. Designated populations experience significant disparities in their rates of illness, morbidity, mortality and survival, driven by social disadvantage, compared to the health status of the general population. 

A health disparity designation helps to encourage research specific to the health issues and unmet health needs of these populations. 

Other NIH-designated populations with health disparities include racial and ethnic minority groups, people with lower socio-economic status, underserved rural communities and sexual and gender minority groups.

People with disabilities often experience a wide and varying range of health conditions leading to poorer health and shorter lifespan. In addition, discrimination, inequality and exclusionary structural practices, programs and policies inhibit access to timely and comprehensive health care, which further results in poorer health outcomes. 

NIH also issued a notice of funding opportunity calling for research applications focused on novel and innovative approaches and interventions that address the intersecting impact of disability, race and ethnicity, and socio-economic status on health care access and health outcomes.

“To the disability community, we hear you and thank you for sharing your lived experiences with NIH,” said Acting NIH Director Dr. Lawrence Tabak. “This designation marks an important step in an agency-wide effort to advance health equity for people with disabilities which also includes updating the NIH mission statement to accurately reflect our goal of turning scientific discoveries into better health for all, including people with disabilities.”

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