Working to Raise Awareness and Reduce Health Disparities
By: Jonca Bull, M.D.
April is National Minority Health Month and this year’s theme is “Bridging Health Equity Across Communities.”
FDA’s Office of Minority Health (OMH) is committed to the HHS mission of advancing health equity, and our office works year-round to advance FDA’s message of ensuring the safety and efficacy of our nation’s food supply and medical products to all communities, but with a focus on minority groups. The first HHS Office of Minority Health was established nearly three decades ago and FDA’s own office came into being in 2010.
In the intervening years, we have made significant progress. But we are reminded daily that there is still more to be accomplished in the fight to reduce and eliminate health disparities.
Today, minority communities and those at the lower socioeconomic rungs still remain disproportionately burdened by chronic disease and are much more likely to succumb to certain illnesses.
Within the past year, we have worked diligently to connect our communities to resources to help educate and raise awareness about these issues. Highlights from our two programmatic teams include:
Outreach and communications –
Released English and Spanish language videos to encourage minority participation in clinical trials, with the most recent video being released this month;
- Worked closely with the health fraud team in the Office of Regulatory Affairs to raise awareness about tainted and fraudulent products that target some ethnic groups;
- Exhibited and presented at nearly a dozen conferences throughout the year; and,
- Spearheaded the agency’s Language Access plan to help ensure that FDA materials are available to all consumers in their native language.
Research and Collaboration –
- Worked with FDA centers and external partners to support research studies around minority health and health disparities. Projects included: Racial Disparities in Multiple Myeloma, Underutilization of Generic Medications in Underserved Patients, and Advertising and Promotional Labeling in Adult Immunization Disparities.
- Funded multiple Centers for Excellence in Regulatory Research Science and Innovation (CERSI) projects with Georgetown University (Targeting triple negative breast cancer in African American women), University of California San Francisco/Stanford (Safer Labeling of Pediatric Medications: Reducing Literacy-related Health Disparities among Chronically Ill Adolescents), Johns Hopkins University (Workshop Clinical Trials: Assessing Safety and Efficacy for a Diverse Population);
- Supported a genomics and health disparities fellow at Harvard University School of Medicine; and,
- Hosted more than half a dozen fellows and pharmacy students from Howard University, the University of Washington, and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, among others.
In addition, last fall, OMH issued a draft guidance document titled, Collection of Race and Ethnicity Data in Clinical Trials-Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff with the goal to ensure that subpopulation data is collected consistently by industry. This document outlines FDA’s expectations for, and recommendations on, the use of a standardized approach for collecting and reporting race and ethnicity data in submissions for clinical trials for FDA regulated medical products conducted in the United States and abroad. We also hosted a webinar to walk through the document.
Working collaboratively within FDA and with external stakeholders, we will continue promoting and protecting the health of diverse populations through research and communicating of science information that addresses health disparities.
Jonca Bull, M.D., is FDA’s Assistant Commissioner for Minority Health, Office of Minority Health
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