Counting a Diverse Nation: Disaggregating Data on Race and Ethnicity to Advance a Culture of Health

How we measure America’s rapidly expanding diversity has critical implications for the health of the nation. The policies and practices that govern how we collect, protect, and employ population-level data have always had important implications, but amid changing demographics, citizenship and immigration controversy, and questions surrounding the 2020 Census, the far-reaching consequences of racial and ethnic data are in sharper relief.

Too often, the data used to drive policymaking, allocate resources, and combat health disparities is based on very broad racial and ethnic categories that can render the unique needs, strengths, and life experiences of many communities invisible. However, there are ways by which those communities can become more visible. By disaggregating information more precisely, the data can be used to document, measure, and appreciate the nuanced experiences of people of all backgrounds. Understanding population groups at detailed levels is essential to address disparities in chronic diseases, access to care and insurance, and the economic and environmental factors that determine so many health outcomes.

The tools and strategies to improve data on health, race and ethnicity are growing in number and efficacy. At the same time, there are new challenges to putting those best practices into action. That is why PolicyLink, commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, tapped into a multidisciplinary network of researchers, advocates, and policymakers to provide a comprehensive assessment and recommendations for improving research methods, data practice, and government policies in the report, Counting a Diverse Nation: Disaggregating Data on Race and Ethnicity to Advance a Culture of Health.


  • Victor Rubin (moderator)
  • Meghan Maury, National LGBTQ Task Force and National Advisory Committee to the U.S. Census Bureau
  • Kathy Ko Chin, API American Health Forum
  • Adrian Dominguez, Urban Indian Health Institute
  • Tina Kauh, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation