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La., Hawaii senators introduce bill to increase funding for schools performing research into minority health disparities

Left to right: Senators Bill Cassidy, MD (R-La.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)
Left to right: Senators Bill Cassidy, MD (R-La.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)(U.S. Senate)
Updated: Feb. 25, 2021 at 10:21 AM CST
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WASHINGTON (KSLA) - Two U.S. senators, one from Louisiana and one from Hawaii, have introduced a bill to the Senate that would increase investments in schools performing research into minority health disparities.

Senators Bill Cassidy, MD (R-La.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) are behind the bill, which is called the John Lewis National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Endowment Revitalization Act. The Senate bill was introduced Feb. 12.

Click here to keep up with the bill’s progress.

“As a doctor who worked in Louisiana’s charity hospital system and now a senator, providing quality healthcare to underserved communities is a priority,” said Sen. Cassidy. “Universities like Xavier in Louisiana are doing great research to address minority health disparities. This legislation supports their efforts.”

“Communities of color are being hit hardest by the pandemic, but these health disparities existed long before this current crisis,” said Sen. Schatz. “We need to support institutions that are doing the hard work to build a diverse workforce and better understand how to close these health disparities.”

U.S. Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) and Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) introduced the accompanying legislation in the House.

From left to right: Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) and Buddy Carter (R-Ga.)
From left to right: Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) and Buddy Carter (R-Ga.)(U.S. House of Representatives)

“This legislation moves us closer to ending the disparities in public health between minority communities and other Americans. We need to understand why people in minority communities are more likely to get certain illnesses and how we can prevent that discrepancy. This legislation will fund the research that will help us find solutions,” Rep. Barragán said.

“In Georgia, minority academic institutions are conducting critical research,” Rep. Carter said. “Morehouse College in Atlanta is a shining example of this. I’m very glad to reintroduce this effort as we work to ensure institutions like Morehouse are able to continue their important work.”

The act was first introduced by the late Representative John Lewis (D-Ga.) in the 116th Congress. If passed, the bill will allow the National Institute on Minority Health and Disparities (NIMHD) to resume giving grants for research into minority health disparities. The Research Endowment Program at NIMHD give funding to the endowments of academic institutions all over the country, including Louisiana’s Xavier University, College of Pharmacy.

The goals on the Research Endowment Program are:

  • Promoting minority health and health disparities research capacity and infrastructure
  • Increasing the diversity and strength of the scientific workforce
  • Enhancing the recruitment and retention of individuals from health disparity populations that are underrepresented in the scientific workforce

Sen. Cassidy’s office says because of funding shortfalls, the grants began to slow and schools that had been receiving them for 10 years were no longer eligible. As a result, research being done at these schools was underfunded. This bill would allow those schools to be eligible again and continue their critical research.

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