Associate Professor Heidi L. Allen has been appointed to serve on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Health Disparities and Equity Promotion (HDEP) study section.

The appointment is effective July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2022.

The HDEP study section reviews those applications where the primary aim is to address, reduce or eliminate health disparities and improve equity related to health risks, access to care, treatment, or health and health related outcomes. The group’s emphasis is on systematic influences and factors related to access to care and treatment faced by minorities and ethnic groups, LBGT, poor, homeless, rural, urban, low literacy, or immigrant populations.

Nomination to the committee is based on demonstrated competence and achievement in the individual’s scientific discipline, as evidenced by the quality of their research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals, and other accomplishments and honors.

Dr. Allen’s policy research has reframed the conversation about the social safety net on state and federal levels. She served as co-investigator on the landmark Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, the first randomized trial to examine the impacts of a health insurance expansion on uninsured adults in the United States. In collaboration with researchers from Harvard, MIT, and the National Bureau of Economic Research, she has published findings from this study that have demonstrated both costs and benefits of Medicaid expansion, and suggested ways of improving the quality of care delivered to low-income Medicaid enrollees.

Dr. Allen says that when she was notified of her HDEP appointment, she was genuinely honored.

“I’ve been serving as an ad hoc reviewer for the past year and the committee is very impressive,” she said.

Interim Dean Irwin Garfinkel stressed Dr. Allen’s qualifications for the role. “Heidi Allen has emerged as one of our country’s leading social policy researchers,” he said. “No doubt her insight will be a powerful asset to her colleagues at NIH.”

Dr. Allen’s HDEP obligations will include reviewing grant applications submitted to NIH, making recommendations on these applications to the appropriate NIH advisory council or board, and surveying the status of research in health equity and related fields.

Dr. Allen said that the most important aspect of the HDEP review process is the need to be thorough and impartial while also maintaining confidentiality.

“Scholars put a tremendous amount of effort and intellectual capital into NIH proposals,” she said. “Like the golden rule, I try to review applications as I would like my applications to be reviewed.”

Dr. Allen is currently working on a study with Tal Gross of Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, and Naomi Zewde, a postdoc at the Columbia Population Research Center, assessing the impact of Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansions on housing stability, specifically evictions.


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