December 1, 2000

President Clinton Signs a Bill to Fight Health Disparities within Minority Communities

Fighting the health disparity within minority communities recently received a boost when President Clinton signed into law the "Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act of 2000." This Act will enhance biomedical and behavioral research on minority health and health disparities, support medical training for minorities and others, and improve the study and collection of data regarding minorities and other populations.

The legislation authorizes over $150 million to create a new national center for research on minority health and health disparities; increases funding for research on race and health disparities at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; and creates a new program to attract health disparity researchers into this critically important field.

At the signing President Clinton stated: "This important legislation builds on the work of my Administration, particularly the efforts of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Donna Shalala, to develop a truly national commitment to end disparities in health through research, training, and data gathering. Under Secretary Shalala, HHS committed to eliminate disparities in health by race and ethnicity by the year 2010. Eliminating disparities will require additional research and new approaches, but in the process of addressing the health needs of our most vulnerable populations, we will improve the Nation's health care system for everyone."

The Act creates a National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This Center will fund research programs on health disparities and minority health; support training of members of health disparity populations as researchers; and provide education loan relief for health professionals who commit themselves to perform health disparities research. The Center will also coordinate all NIH research efforts in this area. The Center promises to help all Americans who bear the burden of health disparities regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, or geographic location.

This legislation also authorizes the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to conduct and support activities and research to measure health disparities and identify causes and remedies. In addition, it authorizes the Health Resources and Services Administration to support research and demonstration pro-jects to train health professionals on reducing health care disparities.

"The elimination of health disparities will require a comprehensive effort, involving both the Federal Government and the private sector," stated Clinton. "The Federal Government must continue to make measurable pro-gress against diseases and conditions that are major contributors to health disparities, and our commitment to health disparities research must ensure that new knowledge generated in federally supported laboratories and clinics benefits all of our citizens. We must also ensure that there is a diverse health care and research workforce in the future by making efforts to attract and train a generation of scientists and health care professionals who are prepared to dedicate themselves to helping eliminate health disparities."

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