The U.S. government is spending $80 million to train thousands of minorities in public health technology and improve health data collection involving race and ethnicity. It is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to “root out pervasive health and socioeconomic inequities” in the nation’s healthcare system, according to an announcement issued this month by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “Ensuring that diverse representation is better reflected all throughout our health care system is priority for the Biden-Harris administration,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, a former California attorney general who served a dozen terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. “With this funding, we will be able to train and create new opportunities for thousands of minorities long underrepresented in our public health informatics and technology fields.”
The multi-million-dollar investment will create a much-needed “pipeline of diverse professionals,” the HHS secretary added, assuring that it will help the country better prepare for “future public health emergencies.” The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pervasive health and socioeconomic inequities, according to HHS, by, among other things, exposing gaps in the government’s public health reporting and data analysis around race and ethnicity-specific data. The administration aims to improve future public health responses in minority communities with data collection involving infection, hospitalization and mortality rates that also considers social vulnerabilities, race and ethnicity, age, gender, and other variables. “Representation is important,” Becerra said, referring to the need for diversity to tackle pressing healthcare challenges.
The new initiative is called Public Health Informatics & Technology (PHIT) Workforce Development Program and its goal is to train at least 4,000 individuals in informatics and technology and ensure the degree “programs are sustainable to create a continuous pipeline of diverse public health informatics and technology professionals.” A new curriculum will be developed focusing on topics such as data reporting that is inclusive of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, the government funding announcement states. It will be created by working with local and state public health departments, community-based organizations, and others with “on the ground” experience dealing with pressing and critical challenged in public health informatics and technology. It is fair to assume leftist groups will be deeply involved in developing the program. To reduce “longstanding health disparities and inequities,” the administration has singled out institutions of higher learning that serve minorities—including historically black colleges and universities as well as tribal colleges Hispanic serving institutions—to receive funding priority.
It seems to be part of a broad effort that also includes local governments to prioritize the health of minorities over others. Earlier this year Judicial Watch reported that Virginia shifted its COVID-19 vaccination distribution to prioritize black and Latino residents even as desperate 85-year-olds struggled to get the shot. A few months later Maryland opened a “special clinic” exclusively for Latinos in its two largest counties to receive the vaccine. Public officials in Montgomery County, Maryland’s most populous, said the controversial initiative would help overcome inequities in the vaccine rollout as well as general health disparities that plague poor minority communities. Keep in mind that the shots were created as part of a Trump administration initiative called Operation Warp Speed to accelerate the development, production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and deliver 300 million doses to all Americans. The U.S. reportedly invested $18 billion on the project which involves several key government agencies—such as the Department of Defense (DOD), HHS and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—and private companies.
During Obama’s presidency HHS’s medical research agency, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), invested hundreds of millions of dollars to racially diversify medical fields. The money started flowing after an NIH sanctioned study determined blacks who apply for federal research grants are less likely than whites and Hispanics to receive the awards. The study took years and was conducted to “learn more about the challenges facing the scientific community,” according to the NIH’s director, and to improve the diversity of its biomedical research workforce. He called the findings “disturbing and disheartening.”