Disaggregated data is an important tool in reducing healthcare disparities among diverse populations, such as the Asian American community. Student doctor George Tong Yang explains why.
By George Tong Yang, MPH, OMS-II, Board of Governors Student Governor
As healthcare professionals committed to delivering equitable care, it is essential to recognize and address the diverse needs of our patients. By advocating for disaggregated data, we can better understand the unique health challenges faced by different Asian ethnicities, ensuring that no community is overlooked. Let’s explore the significance of disaggregated data and its impact on improving healthcare outcomes for the Asian American population.
The Asian American population encompasses a rich tapestry of cultures, languages, and traditions. Asia is the most populated continent, and individuals of Asian descent exhibit considerable diversity. However, when data is aggregated, these distinctions are blurred, leading to an incomplete understanding of health disparities within the Asian American community. When health risk data is drawn from various ethnic populations but reported as one demographic, the health status and background of each ethnic population can be misinterpreted. Conversely, disaggregated data allows us to appreciate and respond to the specific needs of various Asian ethnicities, paving the way for targeted interventions and more effective healthcare strategies.
Unmasking Health Disparities
Disaggregated data provides a lens through which we can unmask health disparities within the Asian American population. By examining health outcomes within specific ethnic groups, we gain insights into unique challenges in these different groups. For instance, when we disaggregate the data, we find that atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk is highest among South Asian and Filipino adults but lowest among Chinese, Japanese, and Korean adults (1). The use of aggregated data also leads to extrapolation, meaning it is applied inappropriately to ethnic groups outside the range of the collected data (2). More disaggregated data can further identify and address health disparities, working towards reducing health inequalities and promoting health equity among all Asian American communities.
The Power of Disaggregated Data
Disaggregated data is a powerful tool that helps us understand the complex healthcare landscape within the Asian American population. By analyzing data at a granular level, we can identify patterns, cultural nuances, and socioeconomic factors influencing health outcomes. This information empowers us to develop culturally sensitive care plans, tailor health education programs, and allocate resources effectively. In addition, disaggregated data enables us to provide patient-centered care that acknowledges and respects the diversity of the Asian American population.
Advocacy and Action
As members of the healthcare community, from osteopathic medical students to full-attending osteopathic physicians, we have a vital role to play in advocating for disaggregated data. Here are some ways to make a difference:
- Engage in Research: Encourage and support studies focusing on disaggregated data collection within the Asian American population. By participating in or conducting research, we contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of health disparities and inform evidence-based interventions.
- Promote Policy Changes: Advocate for policies that mandate collecting and reporting disaggregated data in healthcare settings. Encourage policymakers to recognize the importance of disaggregated data in addressing health inequities and shaping healthcare policies that are inclusive and culturally sensitive.
- Education and Awareness: Educate fellow healthcare professionals, colleagues, and patients about the significance of disaggregated data. Foster a dialogue that promotes an understanding of the unique health challenges faced by different Asian ethnicities and the potential impact on healthcare outcomes.
By advocating for disaggregated data, we take a crucial step towards improving healthcare access, reducing disparities, and delivering patient-centered care for the diverse Asian American population we serve.
- Kwan TW, Wong SS, Hong Y, et al. Epidemiology of Diabetes and Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Among Asian American Adults: Implications, Management, and Future Directions: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association [published online ahead of print, 2023 May 8]. Circulation. 2023;10.1161/CIR.0000000000001145. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000001145
- Holland, A. T., & Palaniappan, L. (2012). Problems With the Collection and Interpretation of Asian-American Health Data: Omission, Aggregation, and Extrapolation. Annals of Epidemiology, 22(6), 397–405. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annepidem.2012.04.001