Archives: 2019

A blog featuring research, resources and people who are diligently working to improve minority health and eliminate health disparities.

A blog featuring research, resources and people who are diligently working to improve minority health and eliminate health disparities.

  • Find Your Path to an Active and Healthy Lifestyle

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    Posted on

    By U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D.
    Department of Health and Human Services

    CAPT Felicia Collins, M.D.
    Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Director, Office of Minority Health
    Department of Health and Human Services

    As National Minority Health Month enters its last week, it has been inspiring to experience and learn about the events and activities taking place across the nation in support of minority health.

    Each year, the Office of Minority Health (OMH) works with partners and other stakeholders to coordinate the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) observance of National Minority Health Month, which dates back more than 100 years, to a 1915 campaign by Dr. Booker T. Washington. The 2019 theme is Active & Healthy, and throughout the Department, we have been encouraging all Americans to live healthier by being physically active.

    The theme is designed to promote the new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and the Move Your Way Campaign developed by the HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP). According to the guidelines, adults need 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic activity and at least two days of moderate or greater intensity muscle-strengthening activities a week.

    Being physically active is one of the best things we can do to improve our health. It is particularly important in improving health outcomes that can reduce health disparities for racial and ethnic minorities.

    In 2018, just 21.7 percent of Latinos and 19.9 percent of African Americans met ODPHP’s aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening guidelines. And the numbers weren’t much better for whites. Just 26 percent of white Americans met both guidelines. So, it is clear that Active & Healthy is an important message for every community.

    Being physically active doesn’t necessarily have to happen at the fitness center, in spin class or on the treadmill. For some of us, it can mean walking the dog for longer periods of time or at a quicker pace. Others might be physically active on the soccer field or basketball court, or the dance floor. The other good news is that any amount of physical activity counts toward the weekly total and has real health benefit. You don’t have to train to run a marathon to be Active & Healthy! Just aim to sit less and move more throughout the day.

    At HHS, being Active & Healthy has been happening at places like the campus of the National Institutes of Health, where the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) hosted its 3rd Annual Minority Health 5K Walk/Run on April 24.

    In addition, on April 24, the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hosted a discussion about the impact of the social determinants of health –including physical activity — on physical and mental health, and other conditions that are more common among racial and ethnic minorities.

    On April 17, OMH joined the HHS Assistant Secretary for Health, NIMHD, ODPHP and others for a Twitter Chat to promote physical activity and staying healthy.

    And on April 1, Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, joined more than 50 HHS staff members for the kickoff walk of the OMH Active & Healthy Challenge. Visit the OMH website to learn how you can join the month-long challenge by converting all of your physical activity for the entire month into steps. The winner will be announced after the challenge ends.

    We are in the final days of the Active & Healthy Challenge! However, we will continue to promote the benefits of physical activity throughout the year with the goal of encouraging more Americans to incorporate the Active & Healthy lifestyle into their daily and weekly routines.

  • Write Your Own Story: Recognizing Your Potential as a Woman or Minority in Research

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    By Anna María Nápoles, Ph.D., M.P.H.
    Scientific Director
    Division of Intramural Research
    National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

    I recently did an interview for NIH’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, to help celebrate Women’s History Month. I spoke about how mentoring and networking can help diversify science, my work as the scientific director of the Division of Intramural Research at NIMHD, and the importance of diversity in science. I also shared my personal experience, because it led me to the research that I do. It was my own family’s experiences that taught me the importance of research on health disparities.

    My parents were both immigrants from rural villages in Jalisco, Mexico. My father worked two jobs that were very hard on his body, but he made sure that my two siblings and I had the benefit of an excellent education. Although he had little formal education, my father worked to better himself and was involved in politics and social volunteerism in our community. This had a lasting impact on me.

    My family did not have much money, which meant we had limited access to preventive care. Immunizations were out of the question, which meant that I was often sick as a child. I also served as the interpreter for my mom during medical visits. These experiences made it clear to me that language and economic and cultural factors have a significant impact on your health and your ability to access healthcare.

    Today, my research focuses on people who have not typically felt a great sense of control in society over their own future and their health. My goal is to give them tools to manage their chronic diseases and the healthcare system.

    For example, I tested and developed an evidence-based intervention that focuses on stress management for rural and urban Spanish-speaking Latinas with breast cancer. These women have very high stress levels, and that leads to high rates of problems like anxiety and depression. It’s important to reach people who don’t have access to services because of a language barrier or other problems.

    At NIMHD, I hope to grow a program that focuses on identifying how social adversity affects our health. I want to help the people who experience that adversity and feel like they can’t escape it, by developing treatments and preventive measures that lessen the effects of difficult social circumstances.

    The best advice I’ve ever received, as a woman and a minority and a person, was to create a narrative for myself. Who are you, what type of person are you, and what do you bring to the table? I used to have imposter syndrome. I felt like I wasn’t good enough to be a scientist or to survive in a prestigious academic medical institution. I tried to fly under the radar and avoided putting my research out there. We’re socialized, as women, not to put ourselves first and, culturally, I was socialized to be humble.

    So, I had to write myself a new narrative: I realized that I can handle setbacks, that I’m a confident person, that I do good science, and that I can help improve the health of minority populations. I had to learn to advertise who I am, my strengths, what I bring to a situation, and how I can make the situation better. I’ve had setbacks, blatant racism and discrimination, financial problems, and stressful situations that made work-life balance difficult. But I persisted.

    Our backgrounds are reflected in the kind of work we do. There’s a lot of evidence that shows that diversity improves science, and that diversity leads to ground-breaking discoveries that might not have happened otherwise.

    It’s so important to find your strengths and create that narrative for yourself. Recognize what unique qualities you bring to the table and what unique contributions you can make. I guarantee that your history will bring you to ideas and questions that no one else could have thought of.

  • National Nutrition Month: It’s Your Time to Win!

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    By Patrice Armstrong, Ph.D., M.P.H.
    Office of Science Policy, Strategic Planning, Analysis, Reporting, and Data
    National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

    Happy and healthy “National Nutrition Month!” Whether your journey for optimal health is progressing or needs a boost, congratulations on taking strides toward a healthier lifestyle.

    Healthy eating is shaped by each person’s life, personal preferences, cultural influences, traditions, and access to food. Nutrition-related health disparities persist disproportionately for chronic conditions among minority populations, compared to non-Hispanic Whites in the United States. In 2009–2012, significantly more Black men (43%) and women (44%) had high blood pressure than their White counterparts.1 Hispanics are 50% more likely to die from diabetes,2 and obesity rates of 38% for Blacks and 32% for Hispanics3 are of epidemic proportions. High blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity also increase the risk for heart disease.

    NIMHD is addressing these disparities with research on genetic determinants of fat and their role in heart disease risk, assessing diabetes in high-risk minority populations, and promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors to address obesity-related complications. The first NIH-wide Nutrition Strategic Plan, scheduled for release later this year, addresses health disparities as a cross-cutting effort throughout NIH.

    Build a Healthy Eating Style4

    As a nutritional biologist, I offer 4 tips to improve your nutrition, not only during National Nutrition Month but for a lifetime.

    1. All food and beverage choices matter.

    2. Aim low.

    Choose an eating style low in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. Lowering your intake of saturated fat and added sugars can help manage your calories and prevent overweight and obesity. And eating foods with less sodium can reduce your risk for high blood pressure. You can follow these suggestions by

    reading Nutrition Facts labels and ingredient lists to find amounts of saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars in the foods and beverages you choose; and

    • looking for food and drink choices that are low in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar.

    3. Make small changes to create a healthier eating style.

    • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
      • Focus on whole fruits.
      • Vary your veggies.
    • Make half your grains whole grains.
    • Move to low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt.
    • Vary your protein routine.

    4. Support healthy eating for everyone.

    • It is up to everyone, policymakers, industries, consumers, individuals, and communities to make healthy eating available and affordable.

    Be well and may you have continued success in creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle that is right for you and your family!


    1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Health, United States, 2014. Table 60. Retrieved from
    2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Hispanic Health. Retrieved from
    3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [ca. 2017]. Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps. Retrieved from
    4. United States Department of Agriculture. (2019). Start Simple with MyPlate. Retrieved from
  • Learn How to Protect Your Heart for American Heart Month

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    By Lenora Johnson, Dr.P.H., M.P.H.
    Director of the Office of Science Policy, Engagement, Education and Communications
    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

    Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Sadly, one in four people die of it each year. Yet, despite progress in reducing these rates overall, the disease continues to impact communities of color in a disproportionate and troubling way.

    African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, and Alaska Natives all experience higher rates of both heart disease and its associated conditions—diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Disturbingly, within these already hard-hit populations, women often bear an even greater burden. African American women, for example, have higher rates of heart disease and are more likely to die of it than White women.

    But the disparities don’t stop there. Certain geographic regions, especially the South, see higher rates of deaths from the disease. The states at the top of the list in 2016 were Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

    The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)—part of the National Institutes of Health—funds a number of large-scale studies to help reduce these kinds of health disparities and inequities. The Jackson Heart Study, which NHLBI co-sponsors with the National Institute on Minority Health and Disparities, is the largest investigation of causes of cardiovascular disease among African Americans. The Strong Heart Study, the largest epidemiologic study of American Indians, examines cardiovascular disease and its risk factors in that population. The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos is the most comprehensive study of Hispanic/Latino health and disease in the United States.

    One bright spot is that prevention is possible, at any age. That’s why this February, during American Heart Month, NHLBI is educating Americans about heart disease and how to protect against it. The Institute is also launching #OurHearts to encourage Americans to improve their heart health by making lifestyle changes—together. Research shows that support from others can make it a lot easier to get regular physical activity, eat healthy, lose weight, and quit smoking.

    Want to make your own heart healthier and help others, too? Here are four ways to participate in American Heart Month:

    1. Wear Red on the First Friday of February. Grab your friends, family, and coworkers for National Wear Red Day® by donning red on the first Friday of February each year. It’s a visual way to bring greater attention to heart disease awareness.
    1. Get Moving. Inactivity is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. At work, challenge colleagues to take the stairs, schedule walking meetings, and use a standing desk. At home, break your daily activity into manageable chunks: go for a quick walk around the block with family, start a spontaneous dance party in your kitchen, or do any kind of physical activity for just 15 minutes. Small amounts add up.
    1. Mind Your Diet. Unhealthy food choices can raise your risk of heart disease because they contribute to risk factors. Try to limit foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars, and avoid trans fats. Adopt a healthy eating plan, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension eating plan, or go to NHLBI’s Facebook page on February 26 for a live heart-healthy cooking demo.
    1. Share Your Progress: During February, share your #OurHearts stories and photos on social media to show what you and your friends, family, or coworkers are doing to be heart-healthy. Let’s encourage and motivate each other this month and beyond. Find out what’s happening near you at

    #OurHearts are healthier together.

  • Quitting Tobacco Now: A Short Guide for Your New Year’s Resolution

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    By Kelvin Choi, Ph.D., M.P.H.
    Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator
    Division of Intramural Research, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

    Happy New Year!

    Many people make New Year’s resolutions to live a healthier lifestyle. If you use commercial tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco among others, quitting tobacco (or helping someone quit tobacco) may be on your list of New Year’s resolutions. Stopping tobacco use has many health benefits, including lower risks for many types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases (e.g., stroke, heart diseases), and longer life expectancy. However, changing behaviors is hard. Here is a short guide to help achieve your New Year’s resolution to quit tobacco products.

    All commercial tobacco products are harmful

    The harms of cigarette smoking, as well as smokeless tobacco use, are well documented. Cigar use is also harmful and particularly common among Blacks in the United States. Research has shown that cigar use is associated with dying from various types of cancers, including lung, oral, and pancreatic cancers. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that e-cigarette use likewise poses health risks.

    Some cigarette smokers try to quit smoking by switching from cigarettes to products that they believe to be less harmful than cigarettes. However, no studies to date have shown that such a strategy is effective in quitting cigarette smoking. So, it is important for your health to stop using all commercial tobacco products.

    Find your allies

    Many tobacco users try to quit tobacco “cold turkey”; that is, they stop using tobacco abruptly without using any cessation aids. It is true that people can quit tobacco solely with willpower, just like people can multiply 5-digit numbers in their head. As calculators make math easier for us, cessation aids, including nicotine gums and patches, prescription medications, and support programs, will make quitting tobacco easier. Unfortunately, compared with non-Hispanic White smokers, minority smokers are less likely to use these cessation aids. Try them out! And find the right one that works for you!

    Smoking cessation support programs are available for free at The website offers text-messaging and a mobile-based program for general smokers, as well as veterans, women, and Spanish-speaking individuals. These programs help you manage your nicotine craving while you are trying to quit tobacco for good.

    Stay away from tobacco marketing

    During the holiday season, you often receive discount coupons for tobacco products as “gifts.” Our research showed that these coupons hinder smoking cessation and increase the chances of relapse. These coupons may also promote switching to different tobacco products (including e-cigarettes) instead of giving up all tobacco. Don’t be fooled by these ads! Instead, you can choose to remove yourself from their mailing lists.

    Learn from your trials

    Just like learning a new skill, it takes many trials to get rid of commercial tobacco products from your life. And just like learning a new skill, practice makes perfect. Don’t think about your past trials as failures. Instead, pay attention to why you relapse. Take note of these triggers and develop strategies to deal with them. And then try again. I wish you great success in quitting tobacco in 2019!

    To learn more about Dr. Choi’s work at the NIMHD Division of Intramural Research view his short video here


    1. Babb, S., Malarcher, A., Schauer, G., Asman, K., & Jamal, A. (2017). Quitting smoking among adults—United States, 2000–2015. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65, 1457–1464.
    2. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health. The Health Consequences of Smoking50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014.
    3. Christensen, C. H., Rostron, B., Cosgrove, C., Altekruse, S. F., Hartman, A. M., Gibson, J. T., . . . Freedman, N. D. (2018). Association of cigarette, cigar, and pipe use with mortality risk in the U.S. population. JAMA Internal Medicine, 178(4), 469–476. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.8625
    4. Choi, K., Chen, J. C., Tan, A. S. L., Soneji, S., & Moran, M. B. (Epub 2018). Receipt of tobacco direct mail/email discount coupons and trajectories of cigarette smoking behaviours in a nationally representative longitudinal cohort of U.S. adults. Tobacco Control. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2018-054363.
Page last updated: 23 Feb 2023, 03:13 PM