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Data collection is hiding the truth about the health of ethnic minorities

A new report calling for to be broken down by ethnicity has been published by international development organisation , ahead of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People this Friday.

Health Poverty Action is calling for the measurement of any new goals on health and wider development to be broken down by ethnicity in the run up to the UN high level meeting on the new framework for international development in September. In May the High Level Panel report, which will inform the UN’s deliberations, called for a ‘data revolution,’ but it failed to make a clear call for data to be disaggregated by ethnicity.

Working in 13 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, Health Poverty Action works in partnership with marginalised communities struggling for health. These communities are often indigenous and . They face many barriers to health care and experience significantly worse health outcomes than the majority of the population, but this is hidden in most countries because health data is not broken down by ethnicity.

This report states that to improve global health we must disaggregate data by ethnicity and shine a light on the true health status of ethnic and cultural minority groups.

The report is part of the Mothers on the Margins campaign and has a focus on amongst ethnic and cultural minority groups.

The report covers:

  • Why it is vital that major health surveys and governments disaggregate health data by ethnicity.
  • An analysis of current practices in the collection of health data.
  • Recommendations for overcoming the barriers to obtaining and using ethnically disaggregated data including analysis of proxy indicators such as language or geographical region.
  • Examples from Ethiopia, Laos, Namibia and Guatemala that illustrate the vast differences in health outcomes experienced by ethnic minority groups and majority group populations.

Sarah Edwards, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Health Poverty Action, comments:

“Around the world there are marginalised communities that experience extreme poverty and poor health, and we must use every tool we have to end this, including disaggregating data by ethnicity.

“When it comes to improving maternal health the world has achieved a lot but many ethnic minority communities have been left behind; in some countries, indigenous women can be twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than women from the majority population.

“If we continue to ignore this we are effectively turning our back on the most marginalised communities on our planet. We have the capacity to identify the different health statuses of minority groups. To improve health policies and ultimately, save lives, we must do it.”

The full report can be downloaded here.


Health Poverty Action