To characterize the National Institutes of Health (NIH) prevention research portfolio on leading causes of death focused on racial or ethnic minority populations.

Research Design

Longitudinal analysis of NIH-funded prevention research projects from FY2016-FY2020.


Project characteristics including type of prevention, study design, budget, minority health focus, and causes of death addressed.


Minority health projects comprised 27.0% of prevention projects and 33.1% of funding across all leading causes of death. Homicide (42.9%), diabetes (36.3%), and stroke (35.5%) had the highest proportion of minority health projects and suicide (20.2%), Alzheimer disease (18.8%), and pneumonia or influenza (8.3%) the lowest. Most minority health projects focused on identifying risk factors or on primary prevention efforts (80.3%). Most projects had an observational design (80.0%), and this predominance was observed for each cause of death. There was a significant correlation between the proportion of minority health projects for cause of death and the ratio of minorities versus non-minorities mortality rate.


Only about one-fourth of NIH-funded prevention research on leading causes of death focused on racial or ethnic minorities, who currently comprise about 40% of the US population. Only a small fraction of minority health prevention projects included an intervention design, suggesting a limited contribution to the evidence base on effective interventions to address racial or ethnic mortality disparities. Also, we identified that the number of projects increase where mortality rate disparities are higher. This portfolio analysis provides a useful baseline to assess future progress in building the minority health prevention research portfolio, a critical component to promoting health equity in population health.

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