This op-ed in the New York Times by Dr. Aletha Maybank, Chief Health Equity Officer of the American Medical Association, urges ” laboratories, health institutions, state and local health departments and the Department of Health and Human Services to standardize, collect and publish race and ethnicity data … to prioritize equity and effectively manage this pandemic.”
Maybank notes that fewer than a dozen states have published data on the race and ethnic patterns of the pandemic but that patterns are already showing inequities. “In Milwaukee County, blacks represent only one-quarter of the population, but 45 percent of the coronavirus cases and 70 percent of deaths. In Michigan, where 14 percent of the population is black, they make up a disproportionate percentage of cases (33 percent) and deaths (41 percent). And in Chicago, blacks make up half of all cases and 70 percent of the deaths even though the city is only one-third black.”
Maybank urges demographic data on “who receives tests, who tests positive, who is hospitalized, who dies and eventually who receives treatment and a vaccine.” She also calls for that information for clinical trials, which have historically excluded minorities.
She notes that going forward “when the time comes to rebuild our health systems, we must commit to finding ways to structure and standardize the collection of all types of demographic data, of information not only about race and ethnicity, but also gender identity, sexual orientation and preferred language that have made people more vulnerable to the blows of public health emergencies. When institutions register patients, they must also have these categories on intake forms. Not everyone collects this information, but it must become the normal way of doing business.”