To build a society where all Americans can live their healthiest and most vibrant lives free from discrimination, everyone needs to be seen. Being seen means being recognized, being heard, and getting your needs met, no matter your race or ethnicity. This is pivotal to dismantling structural racism. And it starts with having good data that fully reflect America’s diversity.

However, until last week, U.S. federal data collection standards had not been updated since 1997, despite the rapid and ongoing diversification of our nation.

On March 28, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) revised federal race and ethnicity data standards so that they give a more accurate representation of communities that historically have been excluded. These communities will soon see themselves reflected in all federal government surveys and forms, such as the Census. In addition, because most states and local agencies model their data standards after federal standards, these changes will have wide-ranging impacts.

Here’s what the new standards do:

-Measure race and ethnicity using a single combined question on federal surveys and censuses;

-Add a new minimum ethnicity category for individuals with “Middle Eastern or North African” (MENA) origins, so that they are no longer -defined exclusively as “white”;

-Require, instead of simply encourage, the collection of more detailed race and ethnicity data by all federal agencies to ensure more nuanced data analysis and presentation.

Race, a socially constructed concept, has been exploited throughout history to unfairly deny some communities their rights and access to resources. It is now a critical piece of data needed to protect civil rights. Importantly, these new standards will be reviewed at least once a decade moving forward, to ensure that they continue to accurately reflect the country’s racial and ethnic make-up. In addition, OMB makes clear that these race and ethnicity standards are a minimum floor and not a ceiling. Agencies may go beyond these minimum requirements to collect more nuanced data.

OMB’s recent changes were a key component of the call to action and recommendations from RWJF’s National Commission to Transform Public Health Data Systems, which I chaired. The commission highlighted the importance of nuanced data collection and disaggregation as the foundation of equity centered public health infrastructure and a path to confronting structural racism. While more work needs to be done to ensure that the new standards reflect the full diversity of our nation, they are a step in the right direction to collect better, more representative data that will help policymakers recognize and meet the needs of all Americans. In a rapidly diversifying nation, this is
more important than ever.

Expanding the standards is only the first step. To achieve a smooth and successful implementation, it is crucial to prioritize appropriate resources and strong engagement led by OMB and other federal, state, and local partners. This will help ensure that these changes are widely adopted and thoroughly understood. Active participation from the community is needed at every step of the implementation process to guarantee success – just as community voices played a significant role in the OMB changes.

Gail C. Christopher

Gail C. Christopher, DN, is the executive director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity. She also
served as the director of the National Commission to Transform Public Health Data Systems. After
COVID-19 laid bare the gaps in our public health infrastructure, including the disproportionate impact on
communities of color, RWJF convened this first-of-its-kind, independent commission, which issued
recommendations for creating an equity-centered public health data infrastructure, including calling for
our nation’s public health system to measure and address structural racism and other inequities.

Women’s health has not received the attention it deserves for far too long. This week, during Women’s History Month, President Biden signed a new $12 billion initiative to be led by First Lady Jill Biden that advances both women’s health research and women’s health data. Under the executive order, all federal clinical trial research—not just NIH research—must represent women. The Women’s Health Initiative will also support important research for improving women’s health and closing health disparities. And it will strengthen research and data standards related to women’s health—from study design to data collection to how data are reported.

Recognizing and addressing the unique health needs of women is pivotal to creating a healthcare system that serves everyone equitably.

The Women’s Expert Panel that contributed to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s National Commission to Transform Public Health Data
Systems has played an important role in the mission to advance women’s health and research. The panel highlighted the need to improve the quality and completeness of data collection, as social factors like housing, transportation, and employment play an important role in a woman’s risk for poor health. The Commission’s final report, Charting a Course for an Equity-Centered Data System, provided recommendations that will help to eliminate inequities in public health data by addressing the legacies of structural racism which contribute to the poor health outcomes for women, particularly women of color. With the work of the Commission and other leaders in this space, and this recent executive order, I am optimistic about a future where women’s health is prioritized, leading to improved wellbeing for all.

Dr. Gail C. Christopher
Executive Director, NCHE

The CDC Foundation launches a scholarship fund for descendants of Black men in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, with a $1 million contribution from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
By The CDC Foundation

January 19, 2024 (Press Release)

WASHINGTON – The National Collaborative for Health Equity (NCHE) celebrated the 8th Annual National Day of Racial Healing with groundbreaking activities, such as releasing a series of scholarly articles amplifying the value of connecting across racial, ethnic, and other perceived differences to embrace a shared humanity. And, working with publisher Mary Ann Libert Inc., NCHE also released a roundtable discussion on research showing that many Americans seek unity and want to embrace racial healing.

On January 16, an extraordinary day when more than 200 communities across the United States held National Day of Racial Healing events, NCHE continued its pursuit of health equity by emphasizing the need to eliminate racism.

“We recognize that health inequities and health disparities will only end when we end racism,” said Dr. Gail C. Christopher, NCHE’s executive director.  “NCHE is expanding our mission to do just that, to work on ending racism in America. We recognize it requires comprehensive strategies that include healing from past injustices.”

While serving as vice president and senior advisor at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Dr. Christopher and others were catalysts for launching the National Day of Racial Healing, which has blossomed into a national event that unites people of all races, ethnicities, and religions in communities nationwide.

In October, NCHE released the results of its first annual Heart of America Annual Survey.  As described by Dr. Christopher, “We looked at the major polls used to take the pulse of our country and realized that far too many are merely capturing and amplifying a dominant narrative about division and polarization. Yet our elections continue to show the general electorate is not so extreme or polarized. NCHE developed a survey to take the pulse of America’s readiness to do the hard work of healing, overcoming our legacy of racial division, and actualizing our core democratic ideals and tenets.”

 The survey, conducted by The Benenson Strategy Group, a premier strategic market research firm, found that almost a third (31%) of Americans want our nation to do the relational work that will enable us to see ourselves through a lens of shared humanity. Eight out of 10 respondents recognize that diversity in the workplace is an important requirement for us to overcome our differences, and they believe that teaching our nation’s history of racism in our school system is a necessary step in our healing and overcoming our historical divides. And more than 80% of the respondents want a leader that unites rather than divides.

“There is really a readiness in this country for us to put polarization and division behind us so that we can solve our collective and common challenges and problems,” Dr. Christopher said.

The wide-ranging discussion, which can be read by clicking HERE, includes Dr. Brian Smedley, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute; former Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring; Dr. Susan Eaton, Professor of Practice & Director, The Sillerman Center, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University; Michael Winger, is a Senior Fellow with the American Association of Colleges & Universities; and Heather McGhee, a renowned thought leader and author of an award-winning, New York Times Bestselling book, The Sum of Us—What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.

 “The Heart of America Survey truly shows that a counternarrative exists to the dominant media attention on our political divisions,” said McGhee. “Yes, the Heart of America Survey says that four out of five Americans believe that the country is more divided now than ever before, but in that same survey, more than four out of five Americans are united on some of the most hot-button issues around race and our democracy, where there have been shocking decisions by state legislatures and by this conservative Supreme Court in the area of diversity policies and in the areas of book banning and censorship around our children’s freedoms to learn.”

Further, McGhee cites the “unprecedented last decade of movement building” among whites and people of color since the summer of 2020 in support of Black lives, women’s rights, and reproductive freedom.

“These movements speak to an enduring and, in fact, a growing understanding that our freedoms as Americans are secured by collective action, by people standing up for one another, by the kinds of forward progress that we can never take for granted, and there are demonstrable, quantifiable health outcomes for each of those movements’ successes,” McGhee said, noting the need for democracy to protect “our hard-won freedoms” that affect our health as well as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As part of its commemoration of the National Day of Racial Healing, NCHE also released five scholarly articles on race and racial healing, which are important resources for leaders working to end racism and achieve health equity.

“Every major social transformational era in our nation’s history has been associated with major innovations in mass media and communication,” said Dr. Christopher. “The abolition of slavery emerged as newspapers and telegraphic communication became available. The civil rights movement reached the hearts of millions through television. This current era of information technology, social media, and AI significantly impacts mass communication and subsequent understanding and perception of our country and humanity…

“At NCHE, we believe those who are committed to healing, unifying, and sustaining our democracy must become a counterweight to existing irresponsible, divisive, dominant media narratives. While the Heart of America Annual Survey is national in scope, we encourage local and elected leaders to use a similar strategy at local and state levels, and we’d welcome the opportunity to partner on such endeavors.”

November 14, 2023 



NCHE Poll Finds Public Embracing Racial Healing & Fairness

WASHINGTON – Organizations advancing racial and health equity and civic engagement are inspired by a national poll finding a strong appetite for unity in communities across the country despite intense divisions. The poll found that a significant majority take pride in their American identity, and two in three (67%) say they are hopeful Americans can work through differences and find lasting common ground in the future.

The inaugural Heart of America Annual Survey, sponsored by the National Collaborative for Health Equity (NCHE), also found that Americans across the political spectrum, including 3 in 4 Republicans, say promoting diversity in the workplace and educating our children on the history of racism is important for racial healing.

“Americans feel transformative leadership brings Americans together with a sense of shared purpose and encourages us to engage with each other on a personal level. Americans express a desire for deepening our understanding of the diversity of Americans’ lived experiences and believe our leaders have an important role to play in bridging divides,” the Benenson Strategy Group wrote in their summary of the comprehensive poll.

On behalf of NCHE, the Benenson Strategy Group, a respected research firm, conducted 1304 online interviews from June 16-24, 2023.  All respondents were 18 years old or older and included oversamples of young voters and voters of color to ensure adequate representation within the survey. The margin of error at the 95% confidence level was ±2.60 percentage points.

Dr. Gail C. Christopher, NCHE’s executive director, said the poll results demonstrate the hateful, divisive rhetoric frequently presented by some media, politicians, and public figures does not accurately represent the feelings of most Americans.  “Our poll captures the actual environment in the country, and the poll responses strongly indicated that the narrative we hear so much over the airwaves is a false narrative.  It’s wrong,” Dr. Christopher said.  “Our poll relays the true voice of the broad American public.”

Further, Dr. Christopher warned that today’s communication technology is elevating and amplifying the voices of the few, creating an impression that dissension is more widespread than is accurate. “We are living in an echo chamber,” she said. “For our country to heal, we need to elevate the voices of the many.  The voices of people who want democracy to work and for our nation to heal.   Those are the people represented in the poll. The media should take on more responsibility in capturing the voices of the many, the people who aren’t looking to tear our nation apart.”

Georges C. Benjamin, MD, American Public Health Association Executive Director, agreed that too much attention is placed on differences among Americans and not enough on the common threads that can unite the country.

“While we focus on differences, this survey reinforces my belief, and that of most Americans, that we can and want to work together for racial healing and equity,” he said. “APHA, NCHE, and countless local organizations across the country are uniting people in this goal.

Phoebe Stein, President of the Federation of State Humanities Councils, said the poll results confirm that healing is possible at the community level.

“As the Federation supports the nation’s humanities councils to strengthen the civic, cultural, and social fabric of our nation through the humanities, I am hearted to see the results of this survey that tell us healing begins in the community: The path forward starts with empathy, respect, and relationship building,” said Stein.

Doug Linkhart, President of the National Civic League, said: “I was pleased to see the results of this survey. It confirms what we hear from people around the country, which is that there is more that unites us than divides us and that, despite the publicity given to conflict, most people want racial healing, equity, and unity.”

Dr. Christopher said NCHE will remain at the forefront, helping lift the voices for racial healing and unity.

“This is the nation’s path forward,” she said. “This will be an annual poll so we can consistently demonstrate that there is way more good in America than is being represented.  The authentic narrative is that of a nation that wants and will do better.  Equity and fairness are achievable. We need to amplify those thoughts and beliefs.”

(For broadcast or print interviews with Dr. Christopher, please contact Michael Frisby at [email protected] or 202-625-4328.)


Download a PDF version of the Press Release: Here

Eli Lilly & Co., a pharmaceutical company that produces insulin, has announced that it will cap out-of-pocket costs for insulin at $35 a month for all Americans, regardless of their insurance status. This move comes after President Joe Biden urged drugmakers to lower insulin prices as part of his healthcare agenda.

(Read More)



WASHINGTON – Celebrating the 7th annual National Day of Racial Healing, the National Collaborative for Health Equity (NCHE) today released an inspiring roundtable discussion with NCHE Senior Scholars on striving for racial equity and announced the launch of their new podcast series, NCHE PRESENTS: Leaders Pursuing Health Equity In America.

The roundtable, which is moderated by NCHE Executive Director Dr. Gail C. Christopher, is a component of NCHE’s partnership with publisher Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., and its Health Equity journal. Mary Ann Liebert is the official publishing partner of NCHE. The Health Equity journal will publish the roundtable, as well as comprehensive papers written by NCHE Senior Scholars – five distinguished academic and social justice leaders who provide insights and expertise on various aspects of racial equity and social justice.

“We are at an unprecedented moment in the history of the health of our nation,” said Dr. Christopher. “We are moving forward from the worst public health crisis America has ever experienced. So many have suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic. But we remain hopeful that the era of racial reckoning in response to the brutal murder of George Floyd will yield positive results that help eliminate racism and facilitate racial healing.”

It was seven years ago today that the National Day of Racial Healing was launched by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation as part of a comprehensive framework that calls for acknowledgement of the pain caused by racism and provides concrete methods of healing the wounds of the past and moving forward towards racial equity in our communities.

“While divisiveness grabs the headlines, there is a strong undercurrent and momentum for racial healing and progress towards what Dr. King called ‘the beloved community,’ “Dr. Christopher said. “Over the last seven years the National Day of Racial Healing has expanded
into hundreds of communities. People of all races and ethnicities celebrate efforts to eradicate racism, end health inequity and value the humanity of all people.”

The inaugural group of NCHE Senior Scholars are Charmaine Royal, PhD, MS, Robert O. Keohane Professor of African & African American Studies, Biology, Global Health, and Family Medicine & Community Health at Duke University; Lisa Sockabasin, MS, a Citizen of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Motahkomikum and co-CEO of Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness; Mindy Thompson Fullilove, MD, LFAPA, a Social Psychiatrist and Professor of Urban Policy and Health at The New School; Alan Jenkins, JD, MA, Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School; and Algernon Austin, PhD, Director for Race and Economic Justice at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The next issue of Health Equity, which will be published on January 20, 2023, will include articles by the NCHE Senior Scholars. Their work aligns with the pillars of a framework that engages communities, organizations, and individuals from multiple sectors across the United States in racial healing and addressing present-day inequities linked to historic and contemporary beliefs in a hierarchy of human value.

In her paper, Royal examines narrative change and concludes there must be “a shift in our approach” if America is to truly address the systemic racism embedded in our society. Focused on racial healing and relationships, Sockabasin writes eloquently about the state of our society and how to get it back on track. With a special interest in the relationship between the collapse of communities and decline in health, Fullilove examines separation through history and its impact on health. Jenkins recounts the turbulent relationship between law and equity in our nation and discusses the elements that can lead to major progress through law, and recommends specific steps that different actors can take to move an equity and opportunity agenda forward. Austin writes that racist ideas and practices help to structure American society by being in dialogue with the economy of the society.

“The roundtable discussion and the accompanying articles contribute to our healing journey. The National Day of Racial Healing is the appropriate time for them to be consumed as people celebrate our progress towards a fair and just society for all,” said Dr. Christopher, who led the creation of the National Day of Racial Healing while serving as a vice president and senior advisor at the Kellogg Foundation.

As a component of its National Day of Racial Healing celebration, NCHE also launches its podcast series. Hosted by Dr. Christopher, the premier episode is an engaging conversation with Dr. Kaiwipuni Punihei Lipe. She is an extraordinary leader who discusses the culture of native Hawaiians, the challenges they face and a special bond with their homeland.

The conversation is consistent with the National Day of Racial Healing’s overarching theme, as Dr. Christopher and Dr. Lipe discuss the power of healing and the “connectiveness” between all people on earth. Both the podcast and the work of the NCHE Senior Scholars underscore the value of healing that is the prevalent message on this day.

“America is beginning the real work of seeding and growing the capacity to value the humanity of all people,” Dr. Christopher said. “This will require understanding the need to see ourselves in one another, to develop automatic responses of empathy and compassion needed to build bridges of trust that are required for carrying the weight of the truth of our nation’s past. The National Day of Racial Healing is a key contributor to building that trust.”

Download Full Press Release (PDF): Here



January 18, 2021

Michael K. Frisby
[email protected]/202-625-4328

Statement by Dr. Gail C. Christopher, Executive Director, National Collaborative for Health Equity


Dr. Christopher’s Complete Video Message is HERE

WASHINGTON – “The National Collaborative for Health Equity has a vision and a mission to eliminate health inequities and to help create conditions that will allow all people to experience optimal health and well-being. But we know that the biggest barrier to achieving that mission is racism. And so, as part of our work, we are helping this country to overcome racism and its harmful legacy. Today is the 6th annual National Day of Racial Healing. Why focus a day on racial healing? Because we need to lift up the voices for unity, for peace, for engaging communities in the process of learning how to see ourselves in the face of the perceived other. America was built on a fallacy, on a hierarchy of human value. In the early centuries of this country that belief system was enacted through the decimation and the taking of the lands of indigenous people, the forced enslavement of African people, immigration policies that were based on that racial hierarchy.

“This notion of racism is built into the systems and structures of our society. And to a large measure, we’re in denial about that as a root cause and a root threat to the very viability of our democracy. Now, if you turn on the news these days, you’ll hear whispers about the possibility of a civil war. You’ll also hear about surveys that say that a large number of people think that political violence is okay.

“I want us to recognize that we have the power to quiet those voices. We have the power to come together as a society and actualize the core tenets of our democracy. All people were created equal and all people should have an equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But that will only happen when all people, and certainly the majority of people, actually commit to that as our primary work. And that’s what the National Day of Racial Healing is about. It’s about paying attention to the unfinished business of creating an equitable society. It’s about working to eliminate the permission to devalue some people and value others based on superficial characteristics. And it’s about creating structures of opportunity and putting in place practices that understand the complexity of that work.

“We created the National Day of Racial Healing to fall every year one day after we celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr holiday. Why is that? Because it’s a day that we set aside to pay attention to the reasons Dr. King both lived and died to help us as a country believe that we could create the Beloved Community. And, the Beloved Community is built on valuing all people equally.

“I’m excited that our national partners are also committed to this work. Over 300 organizations are supporting the call for the creation of a National Commission on Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT). Many communities are implementing a version of the TRHT process. I define racial healing as our individual and collective efforts to eliminate the belief in the false hierarchy of human value. And most importantly, to replace that belief with a reverence and respect and regard for our interconnectedness and learning how to see ourselves in the face of the other or the perceived other. That’s learning how to be empathetic, how to be compassionate and how to translate that empathy and compassion into standing up for justice in this country and for fair and equitable opportunities.

“Voices are calling for unity and peace, calling for embracing our full humanity as a society, the full humanity of all of us. And we know that we must do this for ourselves and for future generations. Our democracy depends on our collective effort to heal and to transform. I hope this National Day of Racial Healing is an important day for you because you recognize the primacy of this work.”


Download PDF Version HERE.

Public Health Institute: Press Release

Thirteen major philanthropic foundations have pooled resources to launch Together Toward Health, a $20 million initiative to stop the spread of coronavirus and strengthen health and resilience in California’s most impacted communities. Supporting foundations include: The Ballmer Group, Blue Shield of California Foundation, The California Health Care Foundation, Genentech, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The Sierra Health Foundation, The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Weingart Foundation (Read more).

Achieving health equity requires eliminating racism. We are supportive of Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s ongoing and long-standing leadership on issues of racial justice and equity. She has introduced a resolution calling for the creation of a US Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Commission. We at National Collaborative for Health Equity encourage you to educate decision makers about this important effort and raise your voices in support. Please see the related press kit and supporting documents below.


Truth and Racial Healing Press Kit