Address Health Disparities

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Strategic Priority VII icon

Strategic Priority VII

Promote and coordinate prevention research that addresses health disparities.

New Strategic Priority Added in 2022

The ODP elevated the topic of health disparities from a cross cutting theme in its ODP Strategic Plan FY 2019–2023 (PDF) to a new Strategic Priority in 2022 (PDF)

In FY 2020, as part of a published portfolio analysis of NIH-funded prevention projects from FY 2016 to 2019, the ODP found that only 3.6% of projects included a randomized intervention to address a leading risk factor for death or disability in populations that experience health disparities. This significant research gap led the ODP to engage in health disparities prevention efforts with a more sustained, concentrated approach.

While a health equity lens will continue to permeate activities across the ODP's other Strategic Priorities, the designation of health disparities as a distinct Strategic Priority better positions the ODP to facilitate and coordinate NIH-wide efforts in this area.


Health disparities related to race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, rural residence, sexual orientation, and gender identity persist in the United States. For example, racial/ethnic minorities and low-income populations have higher incidence and mortality related to a wide range of chronic diseases, as well as higher rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, than non-Hispanic White and higher income populations. Homicide is among the top 10 causes of death for non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native men.

Compared to their urban counterparts, rural populations have higher age-adjusted mortality rates for heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic low respiratory disease, and stroke. Sexual and gender minority populations have higher rates of obesity, violence victimization, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, psychiatric disorders, substance use disorders, and suicide than their heterosexual, cisgender peers. Although progress has been made in reducing disparities in some health outcomes for some populations, troubling patterns regarding increasing racial/ethnic and other disparities in excess deaths due to both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 causes during the COVID-19 pandemic illuminate the urgency of addressing health disparities and the social and structural determinants that drive and sustain them. The modifiable nature of these determinants points to the critical role of prevention in reducing and eliminating health disparities.

Addressing health disparities is part of the mission of every NIH Institute, Center, and Office (IC). Enhanced collaboration and coordination among ICs could advance knowledge regarding evidence-based prevention strategies to reduce disparities and promote health equity.

Objectives for FY 2022–2023

  1. Coordinate trans-NIH funding opportunity announcements to develop and test new interventions and new strategies to disseminate existing interventions that address the leading risk factors for death and disability in populations experiencing health disparities.
  2. Assess the NIH prevention research portfolio related to health disparities to identify research, infrastructure, and training gaps and develop strategies to address those gaps.
  3. Serve as a resource on health disparities-related prevention research to ICs developing funding opportunity announcements, workshops, and other activities.
Last updated on June 13, 2022