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A Message from the Acting EDI Director

Shelma Little

The Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) is honored to lead the celebration of Black History Month at NIH. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a noted historian, was troubled by the exclusion of Black American contributions in the historical American narrative. He aspired to raise awareness of the full Black experience in America. The origins of Black History Month are rooted in the week-long celebration of Black History Dr. Woodson launched in 1926 to realize this dream. This year marks the 46th annual celebration of Black History Month, and the theme is Black Health and Wellness. This national theme is congruent with NIH’s mission which involves applying knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.

The annals of history are replete with examples of individuals of African descent taking action to promote Black Health and Wellness. The Free African Society, a mutual aid group, was established by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones in 1787 to provide financial and emotional support to newly freed slaves. Provident Hospital was founded by Daniel Hale Williams in 1891 to provide a medical facility where both Black patients and professionals disenfranchised by segregation were welcomed.

Contemporary contributors to Black Health and Wellness include Dr. Marilyn Hughes Gaston, a physician and researcher, and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, former NIH scientist and current Harvard Professor. Dr. Gaston’s groundbreaking work led to national screening of newborns and immediate treatment for sickle cell disease, a disease more common in people of African descent. Dr. Corbett’s work led to a vaccine for COVID-19, a disease that disproportionately impacts Black Americans. We are proud that both Drs. Gaston and Corbett shared their talents with NIH.

Institutions such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture are dedicated to preserving and telling the history of Black Americans. They chronicle history from the scourge of slavery to the leadership of the Obama Administration and beyond. They tell stories of the sacrifices, contributions, struggles, and triumphs of countless Americans of African descent who toiled to form a more perfect union.

Join us as we honor the history and achievements of Black Americans. Visit EDI’s website throughout the month of February to utilize tools and engage in activities designed to promote health and wellness. Celebrating Black History Month is one way we can promote diversity and inclusion here at NIH. Fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are of paramount importance because it is only when we remove barriers and provide equitable opportunities that everyone has a chance to reach their full potential.

As we continue to move forward through a difficult pandemic and ever-present disparities, we hope to help empower NIH staff to better understand and manage their individual wellness needs—rest, relaxation, social connection, movement, diet, sleep, and many other factors that contribute to overall wellbeing. We also encourage everyone to tune into NHLBI’s Healthy Moments Radio Broadcast for additional health and wellness tips.

Please join the conversation on social media and tell us what self-care means to you. You can follow EDI on Twitter and Instagram at @NIH_EDI and use #NIH_BHM to take part in the campaign. Be sure to check out the resources, blogs, and other new content on the EDI Black History Month webpage.

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