By: RDML Richardae Araojo, Pharm.D., M.S., Associate Commissioner for Minority Health and Director of the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity
After receiving the diagnosis that he was HIV positive at the age of 22, Tony Enso never imagined that he would go on to become one of the first Indigenous performers to open the U.S. Conference on AIDS. Tony’s story is featured as part of the Equity of Voices video series from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) about individuals living with HIV and finding hope and better health through antiretroviral therapy. “I finally came to the realization I might have HIV for the rest of my life, but I get the rest of my life,” says Tony, a member of the Cherokee tribe and one of seven people featured in the series.
EQUITY of Voices is one of the three aims of OMHHE’s Enhance Equity Initiative, which highlights research projects and communication resources to advance EQUITY in Clinical Trials, and EQUITABLE data efforts, in addition to Equity of Voices. As the FDA observes National Minority Health Month this April, we are highlighting the Enhance Equity Initiative and our work to raise awareness on the importance of improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations and reducing health disparities. This year’s theme, “Better Health Through Better Understanding,” supports OMHHE’s mission to promote and protect the health of diverse populations through research and communication of science that addresses health disparities.
To foster Better Health through Better Understanding and enhance Equity of Voices, the FDA is kicking off National Minority Health Month with a new episode of the Health Equity Forum podcast, which features a conversation with Dr. Jeff Shuren, Director of the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH). In the episode, we discuss the important work CDRH is doing to support innovation of emerging and existing technologies that advance health equity. This podcast series allows OMHHE to amplify the FDA’s communication with diverse groups and ensure stakeholders, including consumers, are informed about the agency’s efforts.
As part of our work to advance Equity in Clinical Trials, over the past year, OMHHE continued efforts to improve diversity in clinical trial participation by updating our educational materials and making them available in 10 additional languages. These efforts also support our commitment to language access and provides health education that supports the cultural and linguistic needs of the diverse communities we serve.
As part of our ongoing EQUITABLE data efforts, the OMHHE works to increase evidence to support the evaluation of outcomes of FDA-regulated products by demographic data including ethnicity, race, age, disability, and geography.
During fiscal year 2022, OMHHE awarded more than $8 million in funding to support multiple projects to advance health equity-focused regulatory science research and to increase understanding of diverse patient perspectives, preferences, and unmet needs. These projects engaged a wide range of stakeholders, including academia, minority-serving institutions, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.
This year, OMHHE is continuing to advance EQUITABLE data efforts through future and current funding opportunities such as the FDA OMHHE Health Equity Innovation Award: Racial and Ethnic Minority Acceleration Consortium for Health Equity (REACH). This open funding opportunity will help OMHHE develop a consortium of diverse institutions to strengthen minority health and health equity focused research, outreach, and communications. The recipients of the award will also support the training and mentoring of diverse students, fellows, and researchers.
OMHHE is also continuing its annual Health Equity Innovation Award, which is currently open and accepting applications through May 8, 2023, by 11:59 p.m. ET. This funding opportunity supports researchers across the country and even around the world.
Along with funding new projects, OMHHE also partners with the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health to support the next generation of scientists and researchers committed to addressing health disparities and advancing health equity. We are proud of the work of Dr. Raven Hardy, a Genomic Science and Health Equity Postdoctoral Fellow, who is conducting research on Sickle Cell Disease, a condition that primarily impacts Black and African American populations, in collaboration with investigators from NHGRI and the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. For more information about this fellowship, including program qualifications and instructions on how to apply, visit the Postdoctoral Fellowship in Genomic Science and Health Equity webpage.
Throughout National Minority Health Month, and throughout the year, we will be highlighting the vital work of some of our researchers through our Researcher Spotlights. We invite you to read more about these diverse researchers and their work. We also invite you to visit our website (FDA.gov/HealthEquity) to find more National Minority Health Month resources and other education materials and resources as we continue working together to create a world where health equity is a reality for all.