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December 7, 2011

New HHS Data Standards for Race, Ethnicity, Sex, Primary Language, and Disability Status

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (Dr Dorsey) and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (Dr Graham), US Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC; and Department of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville (Dr Graham).

JAMA. 2011;306(21):2378-2379. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1789

Many racial and ethnic minorities, people with limited English-language proficiency, people with disabilities, and other commonly underserved populations face unique health challenges, have reduced access to health care and insurance, and often experience poorer health throughout their lives.1,2 In the past, identifying disparities and effectively monitoring efforts to reduce them have been limited by a lack of specificity, uniformity, and quality in data collection and reporting procedures. The importance in the documentation of disparities and the critical importance of rich data systems to understand and track interventions to reduce health disparities among population subgroups have been called for, dating back to the 1985 Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Black and Minority Health3 and the recent Institute of Medicine report Race, Ethnicity, and Language Data: Standardization for Health Care Quality Improvement.2 As noted in those reports, consistent methods for collecting and reporting health data will help better characterize the nature of health problems in underserved populations.