What is the relationship between scientific research and government action in addressing health inequalities in the United States? What factors increase the impact of scientific research on public policy? To answer these questions, we focus on racial and ethnic disparities in health status and health care in the United States. We first review the history of the disparities issue to elucidate how the continual and persistent interplay between political action and scientific research drives government policy. We then analyze two recent government-sponsored reports about racial and ethnic disparities to understand the strategic consequences of issue framing. We draw lessons about how disparities research can have a greater impact on public policy.