HHS Seeks Better Minority Health Data

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has announced new draft standards for collection and reporting of race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, and disability status data, and announced plans to begin collecting health data on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations. According to a June 29 HHS press release, “Both efforts aim to help researchers, policy makers, health providers, and advocates to identify and address health disparities afflicting these communities.”

The Affordable Care Act requires that any federally conducted or supported health care or public health program, activity, or survey collects and reports data, to the extent practicable, on race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, and disability status, as well as other demographic data on health disparities as deemed appropriate by the HHS secretary.

Minority communities typically have less access to health care and poorer health care outcomes than other populations. For example, although they represent just one-third of the total U.S. population, racial and ethnic minorities comprise more than half of the uninsured. Half of Latinos and more than one in four African Americans do not have a regular doctor. The proposed standards for collection and reporting are intended “to help federal agencies refine their population health surveys in ways that will help researchers better understand health disparities and zero in on effective strategies for eliminating them.”

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius argues that data collected under the new standards “will serve as powerful tools and help us in our fight to end health disparities.” HHS Director of the Office of Minority Health Dr. Garth Graham concurred, stating,  “To fully understand and meet the needs of our communities, we must first thoroughly understand who we are serving.”

To learn more, go to the HealthCare.gov website.

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