Chart smallA new report calling for health data to be broken down by ethnicity has been published by international development organisation Health Poverty Action, ahead of the UN African Statistics Day to promote quality data for Africa's progress.

Health Poverty Action is calling for health data to be broken down by ethnicity. The framework that replaces the Millennium Development Goals must ensure data is used to promote equality in Africa by disaggregating data by ethnicity.

Working in 13 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, Health Poverty Action works in partnership with marginalised communities struggling for health. These communities are often indigenous and ethnic minorities. They face many barriers to health care and experience significantly worse health outcomes than the majority of the population, but this is hidden in most countries because health data is not broken down by ethnicity.

Example: In Ethiopia the average number of deaths of children under five is 88 per 1,000, but in the eastern Somali region, where a large number of nomadic Pastoralists live, there are 122 child deaths per 1,000. The use of aggregate data is masking the situation of the poorest communities.

This report states that to improve global health we must disaggregate data by ethnicity and shine a light on the true health status of ethnic and cultural minority groups.

The report covers:

  • Why it is vital that major health surveys and governments disaggregate health data by ethnicity:
  • An analysis of current practices in the collection of health data.
  • Recommendations for overcoming the barriers to obtaining and using ethnically disaggregated data including analysis of proxy indicators such as language or geographical region.
  • Examples from Ethiopia, Laos, Namibia and Guatemala that illustrate the vast differences in health outcomes experienced by ethnic minority groups and majority group populations.

Sarah Edwards, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Health Poverty Action, said:

"Data is absolutely crucial to ending poverty and increasing equality, but we are not currently making the best possible use of it. In Africa, there are communities that are extremely poor and marginalised, and they are not being considered in health planning, because the data does not reveal their true situation.

The framework that replaces the Millennium Development Goals is a unique opportunity to ensure data is used more effectively."