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Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion beyond borders

May 15, 2023

The Fogarty International Center is deeply committed to improving health outcomes and reducing health disparities around the world. One way we can achieve this goal is by training individuals from populations who are underrepresented as health researchers.

Photo of Dr. Peter Kilmarx smiling Read recent blogs and articles from Acting Fogarty Director Dr. Peter Kilmarx.

I'm pleased to share Fogarty's recent Notice of Special Interest for Administrative Supplements to Fogarty International Center's Training Grants to Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion which aims to do just that. With these supplements, we intend to support existing research training programs in their efforts to provide a foundation in research design, methods, and analytic techniques to a diverse set of trainees.

For example, members of certain ethnolinguistic and indigenous populations in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are often among the most vulnerable, facing significant barriers to accessing high-quality health care and suffering from a disproportionate burden of disease. Members of these and other such marginalized communities are also often underrepresented in the health research workforce, which can limit our understanding of their unique health needs and prevent us from developing interventions to address their specific health challenges.

Health research training can play a critical role in addressing these disparities by empowering individuals from underserved populations with the skills and knowledge they need to conduct high-quality research. By training and supporting these researchers, we can help elevate their perspectives so that their experiences are valued, and the health needs of all populations are addressed.

As a Peace Corps volunteer, I learned many proverbs in Tshiluba, one of the regional languages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One of my favorites is “Bidi bikengela kulala mu nzubu wa muntu mukuabo bua kumanya mvula udi ulota muaba kayi," which is to say, “You have to sleep in another person's house to know where the roof lets the rain in." It is the members of these marginalized populations who know what the most important health problems are in their communities, and with the right training, are uniquely equipped to find the most effective, locally appropriate, and sustainable solutions.

With the skills and knowledge needed to conduct research provided by these supplements, these individuals will be well placed to help their communities identify and address their own health challenges and not rely solely on outside experts, who often lack contextual knowledge. This can also help build trust, promote understanding between researchers and communities, and address the power imbalances that often exist between researchers from high-income countries and the communities they study.

It is of course up to our grantees and their partners to apply for such funding, as well as to define underrepresented populations in the countries in which they work. It may be members of specific ethnolinguistic groups, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, underserved rural populations, groups with disabilities, immigrants and displaced populations, or sexual and gender minorities, among others.

We hope that this initiative will lead to tangible improvements in health equity and further build sustainable local capacity for conducting research where it is needed most. Imagine the impact over a generation of helping establish new and diverse research leaders around the world! We also hope to learn from them new approaches and techniques that may be shared widely to decrease health disparities, including here in the United States. 

This initiative is made possible by increased funding for health disparities research in Fogarty's congressional appropriation for fiscal year 2023. I thank Dr. Flora Katz, Director of our Division of International Training and Research, for her commitment to this issue, and our extramural program officers and grants management staff who will support and administer this initiative in addition to their current workloads.

Health research training is a powerful tool for promoting research and health equity, social justice, and improving health outcomes in LMICs, particularly for individuals from populations who are underrepresented as health researchers. We can only benefit from harnessing the talent, experiences, and perspectives from a more inclusive and diverse global health research workforce in our collective efforts to achieve greater health equity for all.  We at Fogarty remain committed to supporting health research training programs around the world, and we look forward to continuing to work with our NIH and global partners.

More Information

Updated May 15, 2023

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