Public Policy News – April 2021
President Releases Budget Request and American Jobs Plan
NIMHD Releases Strategic Plan for 2021–2025
ONDCP Releases Year One Plan on Drug Policy Priorities
The Biden Administration has released its first budget proposal to Congress. Although Congress will decide which proposals to embrace, modify, or reject, it has been waiting on the new administration to highlight its major priorities and new funding initiatives. President Biden’s top fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget priorities are public health, climate and clean energy, and education. Examples of these priorities include proposals for the following:
- $51 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $8.1 billion over the FY 2021 enacted level
- $153 million for CDC’s Social Determinants of Health programs, currently funded at $3 million; double funding for firearm injury prevention research at NIH and CDC, proposing $50 million for such research split between the two agencies
- $1.6 billion for mental health services funding across various programs and agencies, including funding for suicide prevention activities and partnerships between mental health-care providers and law enforcement
- $936 million toward a new Accelerating Environmental and Economic Justice initiative at the Environmental Protection Agency
- $102.8 billion for the Department of Education, which is a 41% increase over FY 2021 levels; proposes a significant $400 increase to the maximum Pell Grant award, currently set at $6,495
The Biden Administration has also released a $2.25 trillion infrastructure and economic stimulus plan called the American Jobs Plan aimed at infrastructure, climate action, workforce, education, and U.S. global competitiveness. The Administration has indicated it will release an American Families Plan focused on health care and education. Proposals in the American Jobs Plan include $137 billion to upgrade and/or build new public schools, childcare facilities, and community colleges; $100 billion for broadband expansion; and $25 billion for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions. It will be up to Congress to turn the Administration’s infrastructure plans and budget into funding bills, a process that is likely to be extremely political and contested.
The National Institutes of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) released its strategic plan for 2021–2025. NIMHD is charged with leading the research portfolio to improve minority health and reduce health disparities in conjunction with all the institutes, offices, and centers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, addressing health disparities and health inequities has reemerged as a top priority of the NIH. This new strategic plan from NIMHD in conjunction with the NIH UNITE diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative will drive many of the new research opportunities NIH plans to release on health disparities, minority health, and health equity.
The strategic plan contains three sections: scientific research; research sustaining activities; and outreach, collaboration, and dissemination. The scientific research section focuses on major goals, including advancing the scientific understanding of the causes of health disparities and developing and testing interventions to reduce health disparities. To sustain research activities, NIMHD’s plan focuses on strengthening and expanding the infrastructure that supports research at the institute. This includes providing support for a diverse and robust workforce of minority health and health disparity researchers and ensuring there is strong representation of minority and other health disparity population in NIH-funded research. The final section is focused on outreach, collaboration, and dissemination of minority health and health disparities research.
The plan also contains several future initiatives that the institute describes as its “Leap Forward” priorities. These priorities represent visionary science that aims to reshape minority health and health disparity research, such as reducing new HIV infections by 75% by 2030 in minority communities disproportionally affected by HIV, reducing disparities in preterm birth and infant mortality over the next 10 years, and increasing the number of underrepresented biomedical and behavioral scientists by 25% by 2030.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released the Biden Administration’s “Statement of Drug Policy Priorities for Year One.” The plan notes the urgency of combating the nation’s overdose and addiction epidemic, especially given new data suggesting the COVID-19 pandemic’s implications for the crisis. The statement outlines seven priorities in drug control policy for the upcoming year that are meant to “provide guideposts to ensure that the federal government promotes evidence-based public health and public safety interventions. The priorities also emphasize ensuring racial equity in drug policy and promoting harm-reduction efforts.” Here are some of the priority areas:
- Expanding access to evidence-based treatment
- Advancing racial equity issues in our approach to drug policy
- Enhancing evidence-based harm reduction efforts
- Supporting evidence-based prevention efforts to reduce youth substance use
- Reducing the supply of illicit substances
- Advancing recovery-ready workplaces and expanding the addiction workforce
- Expanding access to recovery support services
The Administration has received criticism for failing to appoint individuals to serve in permanent roles for the ONDCP and Drug Enforcement Agency, which are essential roles to support implementation of the plan.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released two solicitations with awards totaling $24 million. The solicitations for Transformative Research to Address Health Disparities and Advance Health Equity (U01) and an opportunity aimed specifically toward Minority Serving Institutions call for proposals from research teams or individuals with innovative unconventional research projects aimed at developing and implementing intervention and prevention techniques to reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities. Approximately 10 awards are anticipated for FY 2021, contingent on availability of funding. Letters of intent for the opportunities are due on April 28, 2021, and applications are due by May 28, 2021 at 5:00 PM.
Projects are expected to reflect ideas considered substantially different from existing research concepts and that, if successful, are likely to succeed in improving the development, implementation, or dissemination of prevention strategies to improve health disparities and promote health equity. The prevention strategies must be centered around NIH-designated populations that experience health disparities, including ethnic and racial minority populations, socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, rural populations, and sexual and gender minorities.
The funding opportunities are a direct result of the new diversity and inclusion initiative at NIH called UNITE, which was created to end structural racism within the biomedical research community. These are the first funding opportunities stemming from the UNITE Initiative.
More information on agency updates and funding opportunities can be found on the CSWE SPARK platform.