Report calls for easier access to health data on American Indians and Alaska Natives

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A new guidance note speak UCLA Health Policy Research Center highlights the need for easier access to health data on the nearly 6 million American Indians and Alaska Natives living in the United States.

The report’s authors write that the lack of clear data and difficult access make it difficult for researchers and policy makers to understand the health issues facing Native Americans and Alaska Natives. The study is particularly timely because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Native Americans and Alaska Natives have COVID-19 infection rates that are 3 1/2 times higher than those of Non-Hispanic whites.

“Native Americans and Alaska Natives are often under-represented in health research due to narrow definitions of race and ethnicity categories in national and state surveys,” said Tara Becker, lead author of the study and senior analyst of public administration at the center.

“It is critical to note that data on a single race, non-Latin American Indians and Alaska Natives are often used to represent the entire population, which can be misleading, given that less than 2 in 5 American Indians and Alaska Natives identify themselves in this Category. “

► Find out more: UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research is hosting a webinar on the results today at noon Pacific time

Federal agencies that collect and track health data have relatively little input from the Native American and Native communities of Alaska, because in most national survey data, too few respondents were surveyed to that the data be considered representative. This means that their data is often communicated to researchers – those whose studies help make sense of the data – as part of an “other” category, eliminating any chance that the data can be used to understand problems. health specific to American Indians and Alaska Natives. face.

The discovery came after the authors analyzed seven major population health surveys conducted by the federal government and one state health survey conducted by the center. The brief suggests a handful of measures that could improve the measurement and availability of American Indian and Alaskan Native health information, including:

  • The fact that research centers pool several years of survey data to provide more data on race and ethnicity, as in the center’s own California Health Interview Survey.
  • Have federal agencies providing the data include information on the entire Native American and Native Alaskan population, for example by grouping both monoracial and multiracial people, in the data sets they provide researchers.
  • The fact that these agencies reduce the cost and time needed for researchers and scientists to access limited data on the health of the population.

“We must of course keep in mind the value and integrity of data privacy as well as respect cultural values, which is why it is important that we reduce barriers to access so that appropriate policies can be adopted. created to better serve this community, “said Riti shimkhada, co-author of the article and principal investigator at the center.


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