The late President John F. Kennedy delivered many memorable messages. This one given during his National Health Needs address to Congress in 1962, the year he signed legislation mandating the creation of NICHD, still resonates today:
"For one true measure of a nation is its success in fulfilling the promise of a better life for each of its members. Let this be the measure of our nation."
Fulfilling the promise of a better life – improving the health and welfare of all of us – this is our calling. NICHD focuses on groups including children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities—populations that are often overlooked in biomedical research.
Over the past half-century, there have been notable gains in improving maternal and child health. Unfortunately, these benefits have not reached everyone in the United States. Many diseases and conditions still are more common, more severe, and undertreated in certain population groups—including racial and ethnic minorities, low-income families, urban and rural residents, persons with disabilities, and others. Health disparities are apparent across many research areas central to NICHD's portfolio, including infant and maternal mortality, gestational diabetes, pediatric obesity, gynecological conditions, and medical rehabilitation.
The NICHD Office of Health Equity has been a driving force in strengthening our commitment to achieving better health for all. Since the late 1990s, NICHD has had formal programs addressing diversity. In 2012, the Office of Health Equity was established within the Director's office to enhance our efforts in the following areas:
- Raising awareness about health disparity issues
- Building community partnerships in support of research
- Improving underrepresented institutions' ability to apply for and administer research grants
- Supporting scientists from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds at all career stages, from high school to senior researchers
Today, we still have much to accomplish to ensure that health equity is our practice, not just our purpose. As Acting Director of NICHD, I brought together a working group of experts from HHS, NIH, and academic institutions across the country to review our efforts at reducing health disparities and to recommend future directions for the Office of Health Equity. I am grateful to those who served on the review panel and shared their vision for the future. Overall, the panel envisioned the office to serve as a `think-tank' for NICHD on diversity, inclusion, and equity, infusing this expertise into NICHD's research priorities, grant making, and daily operations.
The panel stressed the importance of integrating health equity into research priorities and activities throughout NICHD. Panelists also emphasized a number of areas where the office should play a key role, including:
- Promoting greater diversity within NICHD
- Developing strategies to increase diversity in the scientific workforce
- Fostering communication on health equity between NICHD, the public and other stakeholders
- Identifying diversity, inclusion, and equity goals and measuring progress toward those goals
In the coming weeks, NICHD will begin our search for a new director to lead the Office of Health Equity. We are uniquely positioned to promote health equity and to enhance diversity and inclusion in our research. As the office is refocused and recharged, I have full confidence that it can serve as a model for incorporating health equity into all aspects of the ambitious work of NICHD.
The job announcement for the Director of the NICHD Office of Health Equity now is available.
Originally posted: 10/31/16