The US Preventive Services Task Force has revised their guidelines on mammograms, advising women to start screening at age 40 and continue every other year until age 74. With cancer diagnoses on the rise among young people, early detection is crucial. This is especially true for Black women, who have a higher rate of deaths from breast cancer in their 40s compared to White women.

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By David C. Radley, Arnav Shah, Sara R. Collins, Neil R. Powe, Laurie C. Zephyrin, The Commonweath Fund

The latest analysis from The Commonwealth Fund has shed light on the deep racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare performance across all 50 states. Even in states with top-tier healthcare systems, Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous Americans are experiencing dramatic disparities.

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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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

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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Reparations should be a public health priority. For too long, Black individuals have experienced disparities that have impacted the quality of their lives. Reparations can help break down these barriers and close the health gap, so everyone has an equal opportunity to live a longer and healthier life.

By Alonzo Plough Ph.D., RWJF

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