News Release

NEW REPORT: A roadmap for advancing health equity through data

HARTFORD, Conn. (June 16, 2021) – A new report released by the Connecticut Health Foundation aims to help health care providers, state officials, and others in the state move forward with a critical capability in advancing health equity: collecting, reporting, and using data to identify health disparities and intervene.

Public health data clearly documents that people of color face worse health outcomes, but Connecticut currently has no statewide standardized way for health care systems and clinics to collect, report, and use patients’ self-reported race, ethnicity, and language (REL) data to improve care. Health systems that already collect this information have been able to use it to identify and target disparities, and in Connecticut, a new state law calls for nearly all providers to collect this data.

The report, produced by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, provides a seven-stage roadmap with concrete steps that health care providers and others can take to begin collecting and using this data to improve patient care and target disparities. It includes guidance on training staff, explaining to patients why the data is important, identifying which variables to include, making sure providers have the right data systems to store the information, and using the data to identify inequities and make changes to eliminate them.

The roadmap was developed with input from Connecticut health care providers, health equity experts, and patients, as well as those who have already implemented similar initiatives in other states.

“We can’t address what we don’t measure,” said Tiffany Donelson, president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation. “Having reliable, self-reported REL data is critical to identifying problems and developing interventions that can benefit everyone. We know from other states that REL data can lead to better care and reduce inequities, and we are eager to work with health care providers, advocates, state agencies, and patients to move this forward in Connecticut.”

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Health systems across the country have successfully implemented REL data collection programs and used them to advance quality initiatives and prioritize interventions to improve health equity. Connecticut can do the same.
  • Connecticut currently has no statewide standardized way for health care systems and clinics to collect, report, and use patients’ self-reported REL data. Many health systems collect relevant data, though the level varies, and fewer health care organizations in the state are using the data to address care.
  • The lack of standardized data can be particularly challenging for ethnic or racial groups with smaller populations, including Asian Americans and Native Americans, whose population-level outcomes are often not even reported in public health data.
The report also identifies several examples of health systems and states using REL data to identify and address disparities. Among them:
  • A Minnesota health system’s analysis of REL data found a 12.3% gap in colorectal cancer screening between white patients and patients of color. After committing to reducing the disparity, the health system reduced the gap to 7.1% in four months.
  • The same health system’s analysis of REL data found a significant gap in mammography rates between white women and Black women. After determining that offering same-day screening would help encourage Black women to get mammograms, the health system began offering it and reduced the screening gap from 16% to 2%.
  • Another health system in Minnesota analyzed REL data and found that Black patients were not being referred to hospice programs at the same rates as other patients. The health system is now working to address these unequal referral rates.
  • A Massachusetts hospital’s analysis of 10 years of REL data found that Black and Latinx patients with heart failure were less likely to be admitted to cardiology for heart failure care compared to white patients – something that could help to explain racial inequities in heart failure outcomes. The hospital is now developing interventions to address this inequity.

The Connecticut Health Foundation plans to convene interested health care providers and others to move forward with a standardized way to collect and analyze REL data, using the roadmap as a guide.

To read the full roadmap, click here. To read the executive summary, click here. For examples of how REL data collection and analysis has been used to identify disparities and improve care, click here.

For more information, please contact Arielle Levin Becker at 860-724-1580 x 16 or