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NIH Announces UNITE Initiative to End Structural Racism

On March 1st, the Director of NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, announced a new NIH initiative called UNITE:

U — Understanding stakeholder experiences through listening and learning

N — New research on health disparities, minority health, and health equity

I — Improving the NIH culture and structure for equity, inclusion, and excellence

T — Transparency, communication, and accountability with our internal and external stakeholders

E — Extramural research ecosystem: changing policy, culture, and structure to promote workforce diversity

UNITE was created to end structural racism in biomedical science, including the behavioral sciences. According to Dr. Collins, “NIH has long supported programs to improve the diversity of the scientific workforce… These efforts, however, have not been sufficient”. In order to better support underrepresented minorities, NIH also plans to identify practices within the agency that may present negative work experience and research. This particular effort to address NIH topics related to inequality derives from last year’s reports of police brutality and the current impact of COVID-19 on disadvantaged populations.

NIH’s UNITE initiative, which is currently headed by five internal committees, has already addressed “short-term and long-term actions” stated Dr. Collins. These committees suggested that NIH make its statistics widely accessible on the backgrounds of its employees and non-recipients, designate a Diversity Office for each institution and center (a total of 27), and increase the outreach of NIH’s Diversity Training Programs. NIH is also open for requests here. 

FABBS has formed a committee, including board members Sandra Graham, Robert Sellers, Vivian Tseng, and joined by Diana Sanchez, to inform comments in response to the Request for Information. FABBS encourages our members to submit comments as well or to email Juliane Baron (jbaron@fabbs.org) to contribute to the FABBS comments.

NIH expects to invest $60 million over five years from the Common Fund on health inequalities and health equality programs.

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