Advancing health equity starts with data

Published January 4, 2022

Author: Sean Robbins

Sean RobbinsEvery American deserves accessible, affordable and equitable health care. But this is not the reality for many people – especially people of color. Yet the root causes of these disparities – from bias and lack of access to social drivers of health – are difficult to measure. This makes them even more difficult to solve for. Robust and actionable data is needed to better serve all communities.

That’s why the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, along with 13 leading associations and non-profits representing patients and consumers, clinicians, hospitals, health plans and technology companies, recently released a white paper detailing the need for shareable, secure data to advance health equity and modernize our public health system. It is our collective belief that such foundational and overdue health IT infrastructure will help eliminate many significant health disparities seen today.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are honored to serve 1 in 3 Americans. As such, we have the unique privilege and responsibility to help ensure every person in need of care, in every corner of the country, has access to quality, affordable care and—importantly—equitable health outcomes. Earlier this year, we launched a system-wide National Health Equity Strategy to confront and reduce racial health disparities. The first step in tackling these inequities, however, is getting data. This crucial step informs not only where health disparities and care gaps exist, but also the best strategies for addressing them and driving better outcomes.

To that end, key takeaways from the white paper include:

  • Enable the collection of standardized Race, Ethnicity, Language data across programs by supporting ongoing development and wide adoption of uniform industry standards, and developing industry standards and best practices to ensure the appropriate use of such data.
  • Partner with trusted entities, such as community-based organizations, to collaborate in screening and collection of information and as a core part of public health response efforts.
  • Leverage Race, Ethnicity and Language data and/or social needs data to inform where gaps exist to help target resources and ensure adequate assistance.

We know we cannot move this needle alone. It will take all of us, working together, to make the changes necessary to correct the nation’s unconscionable health disparities. We are honored to be releasing this white paper alongside 13 other companies who share our mission and we look forward to continuing our work with Congress and the Biden administration on a bipartisan basis to advance policies that support the collection of standardized data to drive better care for everyone.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is an association of independently owned and operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.