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Schatz Legislation To Fund Research On Health Disparities, Help Underserved Communities Set To Become Law

HONOLULU – The U.S. Senate last week unanimously passed the John Lewis National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Endowment Revitalization Act. Authored by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), the bipartisan legislation will increase investments in universities conducting critical research into minority health disparities. Schatz’s bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives in April and now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

“Communities of color have been hit hardest by the pandemic, but these health disparities existed long before this current crisis. Our legislation, which is now set to become law, will support institutions that are doing the hard work to build a diverse workforce and better understand how to close these health gaps,” said Senator Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

The John Lewis NIMHD Research Endowment Revitalization Act was introduced by the late-Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) in the 116th Congress. The bill would ensure the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) continues to provide grants for critical research into minority health disparities. The Research Endowment Program at NIMHD provides funding to the endowments of academic institutions across the country.

The goals of NIMHD’s Research Endowment Program include:

  • Promoting minority health and health disparities research capacity and infrastructure;
  • Increasing the diversity and strength of the scientific workforce; and
  • Enhancing the recruitment and retention of individuals from health disparity populations that are underrepresented in the scientific workforce.

Funding shortfalls combined with an arbitrary limit placed on program participation have threatened to essentially shut down the NIMHD Research Endowment Program. The changes provided in this bill would reinvigorate the NIMHD program to ensure that minority-serving institutions continue to benefit.