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Count Native Hawaiian And Pacific Islanders In COVID-19 Data — It’s An OMB Mandate (Health Affairs)

August 27, 2020

Journal Article

Authors: Richard Calvin Chang, JD, Corina Penaia, MPH, Karla Thomas, MPH

Summary: COVID-19 case rate analyses often overlook the impact the disease is having on Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs). This is due to states and local health agencies failing to collect and report disaggregated NHPI data. This omission likely hides the true impact of COVID-19 based on our examination of the disaggregated NHPI COVID-19 data that are available. In March 2020, Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander graduate students, working in the NHPI COVID-19 Data Policy Lab at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, began coordinating data collection efforts with the National Pacific Islander COVID-19 Response Team (NPICRT). They assembled disaggregated NHPI COVID-19 data from states and counties that the NPICRT recommended be prioritized. 

Findings: A concerning pattern began to emerge. Nine of the states that report disaggregated NHPI COVID-19 cases revealed case rates that significantly exceeded those of every other race and ethnicity. The data indicates that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are suffering disproportionately from COVID-19 at rates that exceed those reported in analysis of COVID-19’s disparate impact on other racial and ethnic minorities. An even bigger concern is that several of the above states that have reopened during the first two weeks of May, namely Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, and Utah, have seen a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. These are states in which NHPIs reside and work in industries where COVID-19 clusters have been previously identified such as meat processing plants and health care. 

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