Directors of two National Institutes of Health (NIH) institutes described the role that past and ongoing work is playing in addressing the wide-ranging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and other public health threats.
The first two events in a newly launched briefing series, “Medical Research & COVID-19: Updates from NIH’s Institutes & Centers,” that is designed for congressional staff and coalition members featured the directors of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
NIMHD Director Eliseo Pérez-Stable, MD, kicked off the series on Sept. 23, describing the NIMHD’s diverse, NIH-wide portfolio to address factors contributing to health disparities and investigate health concerns in minority populations. He also detailed several COVID-19 initiatives aimed at better understanding social and behavioral implications of the pandemic, encouraging diverse participation in COVID-19 clinical trials, and ensuring equitable access to tests and treatments.
Specifically, Pérez-Stable discussed the work of the Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 Disparities in “addressing the misinformation about COVID … to create trust in science as a mechanism to promote participation in our studies and then to enhance the inclusion of African American, Latinos, and American Indians in these clinical studies.”
In the Sept. 30 session, NIMH Director Joshua Gordon, MD, PhD, talked about his institute’s role in addressing mental health in the midst of a pandemic. He highlighted the years of past investments that helped identify evidence-based tools to address mental health concerns. These tools are now being prioritized and rapidly deployed to address pandemic-related mental health symptoms. Gordon also highlighted the NIMH’s efforts to mitigate mental health impacts to vulnerable populations.
“This pandemic has significant mental health impacts that we need to be concerned about. … We don’t know the full extent of the behavioral health impacts, but we are also focusing on research that attempts to mitigate those impacts and public outreach to ensure that the knowledge we do have gets to the people who need it,” Gordon said.
The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, which is convened by the AAMC, and the Coalition for Health Funding are co-hosting the briefing series.