NINDS announces neurological health equity strategic plan

Release Date

Detailed plan lays the groundwork to reduce neurologic health disparities and inequities

Advancing Health Equity in Neurological Disorders HEADWAY graphic


The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health, released a new strategic plan to identify research opportunities that may help eliminate health disparities and inequities in neurological disorders. Published as a series of 10 papers in a special issue of Neurology, the plan will help guide NINDS’s health equity efforts over the next five to 10 years.

In the United States, underserved groups—including racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender minoritized, rural, and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups—are disproportionately affected by neurological diseases. These include stroke, epilepsy, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, headache, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, and neuropathy, as well as rare diseases that can be difficult to diagnose. Inequities in these diseases may also contribute to U.S. mortality rates; one study in the special issue found that over the past decade, nearly 30,000 deaths from neurological diseases in the Black population would have been averted had this group experienced the same mortality rates as non-Hispanic whites. Overall, this suggests a need for new research approaches and interventions that enhance neurological health equity.

As such, NINDS hosted a public workshop and convened a working group of the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NANDS) Council, which included about 30 leading researchers, clinicians, and public health experts, to create a transparent, data-driven health equity strategic plan. Over two years, the group developed a set of recommendations that researchers can use to design and conduct high-impact research, and especially clinical interventions, that will contribute to neurological health equity. The recommendations were adopted by the NANDS Council and the NANDS Council provided them to the NINDS Director. The recommendations focus on several interrelated topics:

  • Social determinants of health (SDOH)
  • Community-engaged research approaches in clinical interventions
  • Neuroscience workforce diversity
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) and health inequities training
  • Communication and engagement with diverse communities

The strategic plan was informed by a detailed analysis of projects funded by NINDS between 2016 and 2020 related to health disparities and a Request for Information, which gathered input from a wide range of over 140 stakeholders, including researchers, health care professionals, patients, advocacy organizations, and others impacted by neurologic health disparities. The plan also includes a SDOH framework to guide a new generation of neurologic research that pushes the field to design and test new treatment approaches in pursuit of health equity.

In the future, NINDS will focus on implementing the plan and continue to advance other efforts in this space, such as establishing new research programs and promoting workforce diversity. This health equity plan is part of a larger strategic planning effort outlined in the 2021-2026 NINDS Strategic Plan.


Richard T. Benson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Office of Global Health and Health Disparities, NINDS, is available to discuss the strategic plan. To arrange an interview, please contact


The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Health Equity Research Strategic Planning Process and Recommendations. Neurology, Aug 14, 2023.

NINDS is the nation’s leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The mission of NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit the NIH website.