With No Data, There’s No Equity: Addressing the Lack of Data on COVID-19 for Asian American Communities


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Health data on Asian Americans were deficient pre-pandemic, with 0.17% of clinical research funded by National Institutes of Health focused on Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander participants between 1992 and 2018, and this deficiency has been magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sparse COVID-19 data for Asian Americans and for specific Asian ethnic groups has maintained the misconception that Asian Americans are a low share of the COVID-19 deaths and cases. In reality, Asian Americans have higher COVID-19 case fatality rates (CFR) than other racial/ethnic groups and had the second highest increase (+37%) of excess mortality in 2020.

Data with poor quality race/ethnicity classifications are being used to drive funding decisions, policymaking, and resource allocation. A failure to address basic issues like accurate collection of race/ethnicity will further limit the utility of healthcare innovations – such as artificial intelligence or machine learning, that are developed and validated in non-diverse populations, and that are devoid of community narratives. Forging Partnerships has strengthened partnerships and infrastructure, particularly around data collection and reporting, provided education on best practices in being inclusive of Asian Americans in data collection and reporting leveraging the experiences and knowledge of our multisector partners –small steps towards more equitable health practices during the pandemic and beyond.

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