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NCMHD Centers of Excellence Program

The NCMHD Centers of Excellence (COE) Program was established by Public Law 106-525, the "Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act of 2000." When the program was launched in FY 2002, it was referred to as the Centers of Excellence in Partnerships for Community Outreach, Research on Health Disparities and Training (Project EXPORT). With the FY 2007 re-competition, the program was renamed the NCMHD Centers of Excellence.

The Centers of Excellence were established to develop novel programs across America, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that would make significant advances and contributions to easing the health burden in underserved populations and in reducing and ultimately eliminating health disparities in several priority diseases and conditions.

NCMHD employs a number of strategies to achieve that end. Building research capacity is key, so a number of COEs have established novel partnerships between different types of institutions. For example, collaborative efforts between historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and more research intensive institutions have been quite successful. They have provided opportunities to partner in a variety of rigorous research efforts: basic research involving both human and animal subjects as well as applied population and community-based research. Research partnerships also extend to independently funded institutions including faith based organizations.

This strategy helps to increase the pool of investigators from health disparity populations through research training and faculty development. These partnerships have created innovative studies into various conditions such as breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancers; human papillomavirus, HIV, and cardiovascular disease. In addition the collaborations help disseminate health information to underserved populations and increase the participation of health disparity populations in clinical trials.

Since 2002, the NCMHD has established 88 Centers of Excellence. The program initially had three categories: Resource Related Centers (discontinued), Exploratory Centers and Comprehensive Centers. The use of these three different funding mechanisms allowed NCMHD to help level the playing field among institutions with varying experience in biomedical research and to leverage the different skills and capabilities of the nation's geographically and culturally diverse institutions.

The NCMHD COEs are located in 31 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S Virgin Islands. The types of institutions are broad and include majority research institutions, medical schools, HBCUs, Hispanic serving institutions, tribal colleges, and liberal arts colleges. In 2007, the NCMHD COE program established 12 new exploratory and comprehensive COEs and continued support for 25 previously funded NCMHD COEs.

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