THURSDAY, Aug. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Black researchers are 10 percentage points less likely than their white counterparts to receive research grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, according to a new study.

Declaring the findings are unacceptable, NIH officials pledged immediate action to correct the inequality.

The NIH-commissioned study of 40,069 individual applicants between 2000 and 2006 reported that Asian American or Hispanic researchers were just as likely as whites to receive the new research project grants.

But it found that blacks were less likely to receive the grants, regardless of education, training, citizenship, country of origin and prior research and publication history.

NIH officials were also disturbed by the small number of applications from non-white applicants. The study found that white applicants far outnumbered those of all other racial/ethnic groups: 28,456 whites (71 percent); 5,402 Asians (13.5 percent); 1,319 Hispanics (3.3 percent); 598 blacks (1.5 percent); and 11 percent were other/unknown.

"In order to improve the health outcomes of all Americans, it's important for the biomedical workforce to reflect the diversity of the population," lead author Donna Ginther, professor of economics at the University of Kansas, said in an NIH news release. "As the population becomes increasingly diverse, we will continue to get further from that goal unless the community intervenes."

The study is published in the current issue of the journal Science.

"The results of this study are disturbing and disheartening, and we are committed to taking action," NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said in the news release.

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