White House releases funds for patient-centered research among minorities

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Wednesday released $14 million to bolster programs designed to identify which healthcare treatments work best on ethnic minorities.

The move is part of a broader transition to adopt so-called "patient-centered" care strategies, which aim to inform healthcare providers which drugs, devices, tests and other interventions are most effective on different populations. 

"A healthier nation must include our underserved and minority communities," Howard Koh, HHS assistant health secretary, said in a statement. "We now have the opportunity to determine which interventions truly help diverse populations achieve optimal levels of health."

The funding arrives as part of the Democrats' new healthcare reform law, which allocates more than $1 billion toward patient-centered care research, $400 million of which is to be used at the discretion of HHS leaders.

The $14 million was awarded in the form of grants to researchers at schools in Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico and New York. In addition, Maryland-based Westat, Inc. also received a portion of the funds.

Administration officials said the grants will go a long way toward eliminating the health disparities that plague many minority groups.

"Patient-centered outcomes research must become a critical part of our strategy as a nation to understand and eliminate health disparities," said John Ruffin, director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. "This joint initiative complements the work that we are currently doing."