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Designation of People with Disabilities as a Population with Health Disparities for Inclusion in Research: Funding Notice and Request for Information

“’People with disabilities often experience a wide and varying range of health conditions that lead to poorer health and shorter lifespan.’” Eliseo J. Perez-Stable, MD, director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), made this statement in designating people with disabilities as a population with health disparities, to be included in research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This designation has been made in consultation with Robert Otto Valdez, Ph.D., director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). A “health disparity designation helps to encourage research” related to “the health status and unmet health needs” of the specified population. The decision is one of a number of steps NIH is taking to address health disparities faced by people with disabilities. Dr. Pérez-Stable explained that “’NIMHD and other NIH institutes (have) 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.’” This designation follows careful consideration of reports from the NIMHD advisory council and the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) as well as input from the disability community, and a review of science and evidence. “’Research to understand the barriers and unmet needs faced by people with disabilities, and to develop effective interventions to address them, is needed,’” explained HHS (Health and Human Services) Secretary Xavier Becerra. He added that “’This designation will help to improve access to healthcare and health outcomes for all people.’”

Notice of Funding Opportunity to Address Health Disparities

NIH has also issued a notice of funding opportunity for research addressing the “intersecting impact of disability, race and ethnicity, and socioeconomic status on healthcare access and health outcomes.” The earliest date for submitting applications for funding is January 5, 2024. Learn more here about the funding opportunity entitled “Health and Health Disparities Among Persons Living with Disabilities.”

Request for Information: Inviting Feedback on Updating the NIH Mission Statement

Recently NIH released a Request for Information (RFI)  requesting feedback on a proposed update to the current NIH mission statement. The decision to make this update emerged from recommendations by the ACD “informed by the work of the Subgroup on Individuals with Disabilities.” NIH leadership and subject matter experts evaluated the current mission statement and proposed a revised mission statement. Acting NIH Director Lawrence A. Tabak, DDS, PhD, affirmed that this update “’marks an important step in an agency-wide effort to advance health equity for people with disabilities.’” That step “’includes updating the NIH mission statement to accurately reflect our goal of turning scientific discoveries into better health for all, including people with disabilities.’” The RFI is open through Nov. 24, 2023. More information is available through the RFI link above.

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) lauded these recent NIH actions as well. Alison Barkoff, who leads ACL and serves as the advisor to the HHS Secretary on disability policy, noted that this “’decision complements other important actions HHS has taken to advance equity for disabled people, including the proposed update to the regulations, prohibiting disability discrimination by recipients of HHS funding.’” The proposed update is covered in the RDPFS Bulletin article that follows.

For more information, read the announcement stating that NIH designates people with disabilities as a population with health disparities | National Institutes of Health.