The Value and Interpretation of Race and Ethnicity Data in the Era of Global Migration: A Change Is in Order

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  • 1 National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota;
  • | 2 Division of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota;
  • | 3 Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota;
  • | 4 Global Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota;
  • | 5 HealthPartners Institute, Bloomington, Minnesota

Human migration and travel are leading to increasingly diverse populations throughout the world. Data collection practices need to adapt to these changes to expand our understanding of health disparities and to optimize the efforts to address health equity, particularly during public health emergencies such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Race and ethnicity classifications in the United States have failed to evolve since the 1970s despite an increasingly diverse population. Current commonly collected categories are inadequate to accurately describe the economic, educational, and sociopolitical circumstances of different groups. Further, these categories lend little practical information to inform health policy. More predictive and actionable variables should be routinely collected to improve appropriateness and timeliness of health interventions. The immediate adoption of the collection of primary/preferred language and country of birth/origin by public health organizations, health systems, and clinical providers would be a concrete and valuable first step.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Serin Edwin Erayil, National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants, University of Minnesota, 420 Delaware St. SE, MMC 250, Minneapolis, MN 55455. E-mail: erayi001@umn

Disclosure: P. F. W. and W. M. S. receive royalties from UpToDate for a chapter; P. F. W. receives royalties from Elsevier Publishing for the textbook Immigrant Medicine; W. M. S. received an honorarium from Fishawack Health/Emergent BioSolutions for advising on an educational activity.

Authors’ addresses:Serin Edwin Erayil, National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, and Division of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, E-mail: erayi001@umn.edu. M. Kumi Smith and Erin M. Mann, National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, and Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, E-mails: smi00831@umn.edu and man0255@umn.edu. Tsige Gebreslasse, Global Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, E-mail: tgebrela@umn.edu. Patricia F. Walker, Global Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, and HealthPartners Institute, Bloomington, MN, E-mail: patricia.f.walker@healthpartners.com. Syreeta Wilkins, National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, E-mail: slw@umn.edu. William M. Stauffer, National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, Division of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, and Global Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, E-mail: stauf005@umn.edu.

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