Ensuring equitable access to farmland and healthy food is crucial for the well-being of children and families. Yet, it is often overlooked. The National Young Farmers Coalition is leading the charge for policy change to create opportunities for BIPOC farmers. Their work is shaping the future of agriculture in the US!

By Olivia Chung, Every Child Thrives W.K Kellogg Foundation

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To build a society where all Americans can live their healthiest and most vibrant lives free from discrimination, everyone needs to be seen. Having good data that fully reflect America’s diversity will move our nation in the right direction and allow all communities to thrive. For the first time since 1997, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) expanded its race and ethnicity standards to capture historically excluded communities, who will now be visible in federal data collection for the first time.

On April 11, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s National Commission to Transform Public Health Data Systems held a briefing to discuss OMB’s updated race and ethnicity standards and the implications for our public health data systems.

Speakers included:

We invite you to watch the recording:

(Media briefing held by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s National Commission to Transform Public Health Data Systems)

Underweight newborns face long-term health risks, lower IQ, and delays. Over 300,000 babies affected. A growing public health issue linked to low-income areas and pollution exposure.

By Jeremy Ney, Time

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Census data shows women earning 84 cents for every dollar men make, with even bigger disparities for women of color and those in finance. Despite education and industry, the pay gap persists.

By Alex Gailey, Bankrate

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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.

By Mirna Alsharif, NBC News

The addition of a Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) ethnic category to US race and ethnicity standards will finally give 8 million Americans the opportunity to accurately identify their heritage. This step recognizes the diverse origins of MENA Americans and acknowledges their unique cultural identities.

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By Dr. Gail C. Christopher, Washington Monthly

If a presidential hopeful decried their opponent because they were LGBTQ+, Latino, African American, or
had a disability, voices of outrage would denounce it immediately.

Movements for the rights and equality of these previously marginalized groups have generated advocates who
protest in the face of mistreatment and injustice against these groups. Where are the voices against ageism?
Ageism is a bias against, discrimination against, or bullying of individuals and groups based on their age

Where are the advocates standing up for the rights and dignity of older and elderly Americans? Mass media
and commercialism have generated youth idolatry in the United States, perhaps minimizing the possibility of
justice, fairness, kindness, and respect for the elderly. Stereotypes, name-calling, cruelty, and disregard are
accepted as common practice.

This behavior and this language are ageism and need to be called out as such. Not all of us will ever identify
as gay or immigrant, or Black or Latino, or as a gender identity that we were not born as, but all of us (if we
survive) will become older. According to the Administration for Community Living, people over 65 are the
fastest-growing demographic in this country. It is time for us to change our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors regarding this expanding segment of the population.

This is the first time in public health and medical history that we’ve had the opportunity to study large
numbers of elderly people over long periods or to conduct what’s known as longitudinal studies because more
people are living longer. One thing is clear: people who have positive attitudes and expectations about aging
are less likely to manifest mental and physical degeneration. Evidence would suggest that our older elected
officials have positive attitudes about aging and can still lead well into their later years.

Science now enables us to understand how the body and brain age in ways we’ve never known before. For
example, how the brain remembers actually changes when we get into our 70s and 80s—and for some, even
sooner. We have less of a need for specific dates and names of people and more of a need for a broader
perception and understanding, so we use the myriad of neuronal connections that have developed over the
decades. We remember more holistically. There’s more memory change than memory loss for healthy people
within older populations. Author Ashton Applewhite has written a powerful call to action for eliminating
ageism entitled This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism—a book that should be required reading
during this election cycle. The author has compiled data from studies that help to counter the tropes and
stereotypes that undergird ageism as well as unfair attacks based on ignorance about the aging process.

Younger populations—Millennials and Gen-Z—may have little understanding of the nuances and benefits
associated with healthy aging. As I watch young reporters hurl insulting questions at our nation’s
commanderin-chief during a recent press conference, I realize I couldn’t be silent any longer. I would urge more of us to call out ageism and not tolerate it. President Joe Biden shepherded this nation through the final years of a
devastating pandemic while securing the economy safely and soundly. He leveraged wisdom gained through
decades of public service to accomplish more than many of his younger and less experienced predecessors.

Some of the top economic accomplishments of the Biden-Harris administration include lowering the costs of
families’ everyday expenses through the Inflation Reduction Act, rescuing the economy, changing the course
of the pandemic through the American Rescue Plan, and reaching a record number of people working.

Other historic accomplishments include the first meaningful gun violence reduction legislation in 30 years, the
confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and federal Judges of diverse backgrounds,
and, through the PACT Act, an expansion of benefits and services veterans exposed to toxins. In terms of
results for the American people, the Biden-Harris Administration has had two of the strongest years of job
growth in history, aided more than 30 million borrowers who stand to benefit from student debt relief, created
nearly 11 million jobs since 2021, and invested in infrastructure in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S.
territories, and throughout tribal nations.

In fairness, the Trump White House archives summarized the previous administration’s accomplishments: it
created 7 million new jobs, rebuilt and invested in rural America, passed $3.2 trillion in historic tax relief, and
reformed the tax code through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Other historic accomplishments include the
unemployment rate reaching 3.5 percent and modernizing the National Environmental Policy Act for the first
time in over 40 years. For the first time in nearly 70 years, the U.S. became a net energy exporter.

Elderly presidents led both of these administrations.

The stamina, courage, and patriotism required to be the president deserve respect and should not be subjected
to any isms—racism, sexism, and certainly not ageism. The world’s complex challenges require experience
and must be addressed with wisdom, both of which are acquired through decades of dedication and public
service. The idiocy of ageism should not taint these accomplishments and attributes. Evolving democracy
needs wisdom at the helm.

Their personal physician or healthcare provider best determines the health and fitness of any person in a
leadership position. We cannot condone armchair diagnoses based on biased perceptions about the dynamics
of health and aging. I have spent my career leading efforts to eliminate biases in its many forms. Related
research suggests that bias against the elderly is the hardest to eliminate. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
The 2024 presidential election cycle invites us to call on our better angels and demonstrate more compassion
and regard for ourselves and our future selves, recognizing that we will all become elderly at some point

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

Progress has been made in reducing public health consequences of air pollutants in the US, but not all populations have benefitted equally. Asthma cases are increasing in low-income, racially diverse communities closer to sources of pollution.

By Annalisa Merelli, Stat News

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New report from The National Urban League sheds light on the racial wealth gap and calls for action to address systemic inequality.

By David Brancaccio and Alex Schroeder, Marketplace
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