Throughout 20 Days of ACA, we have discusses how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or health reform will address inequities in health care and health faced by people of color and other underserved communities. We have talked about improving the health care workforce, increasing access to preventive care, and Community Transformation Grants to address chronic diseases in communities marginalized by the health care system.
Today, we will discuss another effort headed up by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): improving data collection on undeserved communities so as to better understand and address health disparities.
Why is improved data collection important?
Health data collected from federal agencies, department and offices is used to inform national, state and local health initiatives. Without detailed demographic information, health initiatives may overlook the health care challenges of specific underserved populations. This particularly true for LGBTQ Latin@s, whose intersectional identities and challenges are not well understood.
As highlighted in a report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, improved data collection is necessary not only for health equity initiatives, but also to ensure nondiscrimination in health care, to ensure adherence to civil rights law, elevate the importance of health equity in public policy, and understand the health care needs of diverse immigrant populations.
What does the ACA do to improve data collection?
The Affordable Care Act requires enhanced data collection on race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, disability status and for underserved rural populations with the explicit goal of reducing health disparities. Additionally, HHS has proposed new data standards on sexual orientation and gender identity so to better understand the challenges and opportunities for improving the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals.
Starting in 2013, all federally-funded health programs and population surveys, including the Medicaid and CHIP programs must collect data on the above-listed characteristics, and others deemed important by HHS. Under the health reform law, the Secretary of HHS leads efforts to analyze and disseminate data collected. And again, the ACA makes very clear that these new standards serve the purpose of reducing health disparities.
Knowledge is power. With greater understanding of the health care needs of Latinas and other the other intersecting identities Latinas identify with, community, state and national health initiatives can be developed or better tailored to the address the multiple oppressions experienced by Latinas in our health care system and improve health equity.