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Journal of Public Health Management & Practice:
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e318215a4c7
Commentary

Setting the Standards for Collecting Ethnicity Data in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Hawkins, Summer Sherburne PhD; Torres, Brunilda LicSW; May, Georgia Simpson MA; Cohen, Bruce B. PhD

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Abstract

The 1997 revision to Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Directive No. 15 Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting provides standard classifications for reporting broad race categories and Hispanic/non-Hispanic ethnicity. However, the current system may be masking disparities in health behaviors and outcomes across ethnic groups. Since 2000, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has been developing an alternative approach to collecting race, ethnicity, and language preference data to better serve the local population. Our data collection tool adheres to OMB standards but captures detailed ethnicity data independent of broad race categories. We believe that training personnel is an essential component of data collection, and we are planning to develop online training materials. Although we encourage states to learn from our experience, data need to be comparable within and across states as well as over time to monitor health disparities.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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