Minority Health & Health Disparities

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Credit: iStock

Health disparities are gaps in the quality of health and health care that mirror differences in socioeconomic status, racial and ethnic background, and education level. These disparities may stem from many factors, including accessibility of health care, increased risk of disease from occupational exposure, and increased risk of disease from underlying genetic, ethnic, or familial factors. NIH-designated U.S. health disparity populations include American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Blacks/African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, sexual and gender minorities, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, and underserved rural populations.

Why Is Minority Health a Priority for NIAID?

NIAID has long recognized that racial and ethnic differences affect susceptibility to infection and disease. For example, African Americans account for about 13 percent of the U.S. population, yet represent almost half of new AIDS diagnoses. Native Americans experience higher rates of meningitis and invasive bacterial disease from Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) than do other groups. Year after year, asthma has a disproportionate affect on inner-city populations, particularly among African American and Hispanic/Latino children.

How Is NIAID Addressing This Critical Topic?

NIAID is committed to research that helps reduce these and other health disparities. Its efforts have led to the development of better drugs for HIV/AIDS, vaccines that have almost eliminated Hib-related disease, and educational programs and other interventions to improve asthma control among inner-city children.

NIAID also works to attract minorities to careers in biomedical research through programs such as Intramural NIAID Research Opportunities, which provides training in NIAID labs for undergraduate, graduate, and medical students from underrepresented groups, and Research Centers in Minority Institutions, which is partly funded by NIAID and aims to enhance research infrastructure at minority colleges and universities that offer doctorates in health sciences.

To learn about risk factors related to minority health visit the MedlinePlus Health Disparities site.

NIAID Research Aims to Reduce Health Disparities

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