Harnessing and Standardizing Health Equity Data

Published April 2, 2024

Data is foundational to understanding disparities in health and to measuring our progress in eliminating them. 

For example, each year, as many as 60,000 women in America are affected by unexpected outcomes of labor or delivery (severe maternal morbidity, or SMM) that have serious short- or long-term health consequences. Women of color bear the brunt of these adverse events.

That limits the ability of entities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to capture a complete picture on SMM and to design interventions.

The nation lacks standards for collecting and using race, ethnicity and language (REL) and sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data. What’s more, the kind of granular data we needed to meaningfully measure population health and the effectiveness of interventions is lacking.  

BCBSA recommends four key priorities for harnessing and standardizing health equity data: 

  1. Congress should provide funding to the CDC to establish, coordinate and manage state-based review committees to identify, review and characterize pregnancy-related morbidity (SMM). 
  2. The federal government should incentivize development and adoption of standardized REL and SOGI data.
  3. Stakeholders should ensure data is collected without bias, and, where possible, from patients themselves; and 
  4. We must all play a part in guarding patient privacy and security.

Critical to these efforts is engendering trust. We advocate for being transparent about how we collect and use data, which should in turn make more people comfortable sharing REL, SOGI and other data.

Read our recommendations for harnessing and standardizing health equity data.

Also, learn more about our call for policymakers to establish state-based review committees to identify, review and characterize pregnancy-related morbidity (SMM).

Here’s how one BCBS company is leading the way:

Independence Blue Cross used member-provided and imputed data to uncover disparities in maternal health outcomes among members in particular ZIP codes in Philadelphia. To curb adverse outcomes, the health plan focused on interventions to reduce risk, including helping members mitigate hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. They partnered with Cayaba Care, an organization that deploys maternity navigators who resemble their patients and can relate to their lived experiences. The navigators work with at-risk women as often as desired, throughout and beyond their pregnancies. Ongoing improvements in data collection and analysis are helping the health plan measure the impact of this intervention.

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

About Independence Blue Cross
Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.