Striving not to narrow, but to eliminate, racial disparities


For years health statistics have revealed a grim dichotomy—members of racial and ethnic minority groups bear a greater burden of chronic and infectious disease. “The problem is here because we ignored the warning signs,” said John Ruffin, Ph.D., director of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

Addressing an audience of health care providers at the annual meeting of the Division of Prevention and Community Research at the Department of Psychiatry in April, Ruffin said, “If health disparity is to be eliminated it is going to be eliminated by you, not by us in Washington.”

To that end Ruffin has worked to provide the tools to health care professionals. New programs to investigate health disparities, he said, will repay student loans of physicians, establish centers of excellence and endow underfunded institutions. The NIH has also adopted a strategic plan to address health disparities.

“I do believe we are not talking about narrowing health disparities,” Ruffin said. “I really believe we are talking about eliminating health disparities.”