August 26, 2009
The National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) joins the nation in remembering an American icon, Senator Edward Kennedy for his longstanding commitment and contributions toward eliminating disparities in health among underserved populations. He demonstrated his lifelong dedication to health care and social justice in many ways. Senator Kennedy gave voice to the voiceless experiencing poor health in this country, when he introduced the Health Care Fairness Act into the United States Senate. This bill later became law, the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act of 2000, which established the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
Almost a decade after the enactment of that law, the nation has Senator Kennedy to thank for the progress that is being made today to remove the barriers to quality health for all Americans. His vision and leadership, led to the creation of programs mandated by the legislation, such as the NCMHD Centers of Excellence which supports the NIH research efforts to study the many diseases and conditions that disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities, rural, low-income, and medically underserved populations, and the varied factors that lead to health disparities. More than 2000 individuals have benefitted from loan repayment funding in their pursuit of biomedical research and health professions careers focused on health disparities, as a result of the NCMHD Loan Repayment Program authorized by the legislation. Many of the program recipients are from racial/ethnic minority or disadvantaged backgrounds. Around the country, communities are being empowered to be active and equal partners with researchers, to study, understand, and address their health conditions, thanks to the work of Senator Kennedy.
I was pleased, on behalf of the NIH, to honor Senator Kennedy at the inaugural NIH Science of Eliminating Health Disparities Summit in December 2008 with the Health Disparities Lifetime Achievement Award for his indelible contributions towards ensuring the health of all Americans. Although he could not be present, it was quite touching to receive and share with summit attendees a letter of acceptance from Senator Kennedy. He was a champion of health care for all people, a constant advocate for education, and we will forever honor him as we continue to work diligently in our quest to eliminate health disparities.
John Ruffin, Ph.D.
National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities