By: RADM Richardae Araojo, Pharm.D., M.S., Associate Commissioner for Minority Health and Director of the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity
April is National Minority Health Month, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services selected “Give Your Community a Boost” as this year’s theme. Over the last two years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has worked and continues working tirelessly with our U.S. government partners, medical product manufacturers, international partners, and additional stakeholders to meet the challenges of COVID-19. Although the pandemic continues, significant strides have been made in efforts to protect the health of Americans. The FDA authorized and approved vaccines, treatments, increased available testing options such as at-home tests, and provided educational resources in a variety of languages.
Outreach and Collaboration During the COVID-19 Pandemic
During National Minority Health Month, we highlight the ways in which we are working to improve minority health and health equity. One aspect of “Give Your Community a Boost” centers on our continuous fight against COVID-19 and increasing health promotion through combatting misinformation and building trust with diverse communities. We continuously work to provide factual and reliable information to help consumers make the best health decisions for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.
Over the last year, the FDA’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) launched a national outreach initiative to provide health education related to COVID-19. The office developed videos to highlight the diverse researchers who worked on the COVID-19 vaccines, the process of bringing vaccines to market, and the importance of diverse communities getting vaccinated. The videos are available in nine languages including American Sign Language. The office also developed other multi-media outreach materials to address vaccine confidence and support FDA efforts to combat COVID-19, including supporting translation of COVID-19 Vaccine EUA information for recipients and caregivers into more than 20 languages.
Research and Collaboration During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Health disparities that existed long before COVID-19 became amplified during the pandemic especially for racial and ethnic minority and tribal populations. OMHHE has made significant investments with stakeholders to advance health equity COVID-19 research. As part of our continued commitment and efforts, OMHHE’s newest initiative, the Enhance Equity Initiative, focuses on supporting research projects and communication resources to advance:
- EQUITY in clinical trials by supporting efforts to advance diversity in participants.
- EQUITABLE data efforts by increasing data available on diverse groups including, but not limited to, ethnicity, race, age, disability, and geography.
- EQUITY of voices by amplifying the FDA’s communication with diverse groups to ensure stakeholders, including consumers, are informed about the FDA’s efforts, and to understand diverse patient perspectives, preferences, and unmet needs.
Under this initiative, OMHHE also announced a COVID-19 and Health Equity Innovation Award, an award opportunity supported by funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that will fund innovative projects to advance COVID-19 health equity research.
Health Equity Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic
Throughout the pandemic OMHHE has continued to advance its health equity mission by addressing health disparities impacting diverse populations. For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health joined forces with the FDA OMHHE to launch the Let’s Take Charge! Campaign. This national, bilingual (English and Spanish) multimedia campaign aims to make lupus (an autoimmune disease that has a disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minority populations) research more inclusive and diverse.
As we continue to work to advance health equity, gaining the trust of diverse populations and increasing their confidence in medical and public health communities is critical to addressing health disparities. This requires commitment, understanding, and active engagement. Combatting misinformation and investing in providing factual, easy to understand, and easy to access information, on health topics like lupus and clinical trials, is also a key part of succeeding in these efforts.
Over the coming years we will continue our work to broaden knowledge of—and access to—culturally and linguistically tailored health education resources to aid consumers in making informed decisions about their health. We will also further advance our support of diverse researchers and projects designed to help reduce health disparities through upcoming innovative award opportunities. Through these collective efforts, we can continue to help create a world in which health equity is a reality for all.