IHME to advance US county-level health disparities research

Published March 27, 2023

The Institute for Health Metrics (IHME) has been awarded a $16.8 million contract from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to dissect health disparities at the county level in the US. The funding will help IHME conduct comprehensive research that builds upon IHME’s Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, which measures mortality and morbidity for 370 diseases and injuries in 204 countries and territories.

The five-year project is an extension of the partnership with NIMHD  that launched in September 2019 to examine where certain segments of the US population are disproportionately likely to suffer poor health and early death.

“We are eager to deepen our partnership with NIMHD, solidify our commitment to providing scientific evidence that health systems, policymakers, and communities can use to reduce health inequities across the US,” said Prof. Ali Mokdad, Chief Strategy Officer of Population Health at UW and professor of Health Metrics Sciences.

“We’re focused on closing health gaps impacting marginalized communities, and gaining a better understanding of where and why those disparities chronically exist is one of the many crucial steps in ultimately effecting change,” said Prof. Laura Dwyer-Lindgren, Assistant Professor and lead researcher on IHME’s US Health Disparities team.

Since the collaboration first launched, researchers analyzed and created a granular view of burden of disease trends by racial and ethnic group and educational levels in 3,110 counties in the 20-year span. A peer-reviewed study on life expectancy was published June of 2022 in The Lancet. IHME also created an interactive data visualization tool to help users explore health trends and risk factors in each of the counties. 

The next phase of the project will take major epidemiological changes into account such as increasing death rates due to risk factors and provide a detailed picture of both mortality and morbidity trends by race and ethnicity at the county level. IHME will also provide the latest available data on a larger set of health trends, including incidence, prevalence, and disability. Some key social and demographic indicators they plan to incorporate into their research will be the level of educational attainment by race and ethnicity in each county. This will also be the first time the race and ethnic categories will include a two or more races group and separate Asian and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander groups. The findings of this project will help support  NIH’s  commitment to reduce disparities in the US and to improve health at the local level.