Although the Institute of Medicine report1 on health disparities between ethnic and socioeconomic groups in the United States has focused government agencies on improving health of minorities and the poor, National Institutes of Health leaders say their institutes began dealing with these issues before the report was released. And their forthcoming plan will be major.

At the Intercultural Cancer Council's Biennial Symposium held in Washington, D.C., in early February with a focus on health disparities in cancer, NIH acting director Ruth Kirschstein announced that the institutes established a working group on health disparities last September. The group submitted a preliminary plan to former NIH director Harold Varmus in December 1999. The plan called for expanding research on health disparities and expanding training, defining the focus of NIH health disparity programs, strengthening existing partnerships with NIH, and increasing communication from NIH and transfer of knowledge that is being accumulated by...

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