Office for Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity (ODWD)
The Office for Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity (ODWD) coordinates two significant priorities at NIMH:
- Reduce mental health disparities and promote equity in the United States
- Further efforts to diversify the mental health research workforce
The office’s combined focus allows NIMH to support and advance practices that encourage equity in mental health research and address the needs of individuals and communities that are underrepresented and underserved in both research and the workforce.
Mental Health Disparities Research
An essential element in promoting equity is to build a valid evidence base to ensure effective treatment and care. This requires an inclusive environment where members of racial, ethnic, and sexual and gender minority groups, and individuals from lower socioeconomic strata, are represented in basic, translational, effectiveness, and services research studies.
Analyses of data from these research studies can improve our understanding of disparities in risk and trajectories for mental illnesses as well as responsiveness to preventative and treatment interventions. In addition, since individuals from underserved and underrepresented communities frequently experience reduced access to quality mental health services, it is vital to examine accessibility, engagement, and follow-up in a variety of provider settings.
ODWD encourages researchers to examine underlying causes of mental health disparities as well as to explore ways to test novel approaches to reduce disparities. By studying both biological mechanisms and social factors, researchers, providers, and policymakers will gain a better understanding of the variations in prevalence, course of mental disorders, and access to care across diverse populations. Moreover, because factors such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and socioeconomic status may contribute to individual differences in response to interventions and services, research on these differences related to the etiology of mental disorders may provide information fundamental to the development of personalized interventions.
The office works closely with the NIMH Center for Global Mental Health Research (CGMHR) to address disparities in low- and middle-income countries. The office also works closely with the NIMH Office of Rural Mental Health Research to address the mental health needs of people living in rural areas.
Research Workforce Diversity
ODWD supports the development and maintenance of a diverse multidisciplinary mental health research workforce. The office recognizes the need to provide training, mentoring, and advancement opportunities for basic, translational, and clinical researchers from diverse backgrounds who can provide broad and unique perspectives to pressing research questions.
ODWD Priorities and Function
The primary functions of the office are to:
- Guide priority-setting for research funding and identify trends and gaps in the areas of mental health disparities, minority mental health, women’s mental health, sexual and gender minority mental health, and mental health in underserved communities
- Coordinate activities within NIMH and across NIH that are relevant to research on mental health disparities and women’s mental health
- Promote strategies to reduce mental health disparities and increase attention to minority mental health, women’s mental health, sexual and gender minority mental health, and mental health in underserved communities
- Serve as the liaison to external stakeholders on research issues relevant to mental health disparities, minority mental health, women’s mental health, sexual and gender minority mental health, and mental health in underserved communities
- Support the development and maintenance of a diverse, multidisciplinary mental health research workforce in the United States through mechanisms that meet the training needs of underrepresented groups
Christina P.C. Borba, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Office for Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity
6001 Executive Boulevard. Bethesda, MD 20892