- Dhanasheel Muralidharan
The Absence of Asian Representation in Statistics and its Connection to Healthcare
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, acts of violence towards peoples of Asian descendance increased dramatically, with extreme acts stemming from the misinformation and unjust racial stigmas propagated by various key figures throughout society. In response to this violence, Congress was put under pressure to provide some level of response in the form of some legislation in support of these peoples; thus arose the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, in the hopes of tackling the increased anti-Asian violence. However, while this violence stems from a source not too long ago, the disparities and discrimination that the Asian population has faced extends far beyond the visible eye.
One key result of the discrimination the Asian population in the United States has felt is the systematic lack of information regarding the population in American federal statistical systems. The White House regards the Asian population in the United States as the Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI); this attempt at inclusion allows for a specific name to be applied to the group of people affected by this statistical loss. However, it still fails to accommodate for the 30+ Asian demographics that actually make up this group. As such, this statistical vacancy in the federal (and scientific) perspective has led to a lack of actionable information that could possibly lead to the overall benefit for this increasingly large group of people. In many studies and instances, Asian demographics were seldom included in studies regarding smoking, cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases. Even when considered, the diverse population is often reduced to simply “Asian,” an ineffective simplification.
However, this vacancy in collected and reported data is starting to be filled, with increasing representation of this diverse group in modern studies. This increasing representation has led to a variety of surprising discoveries regarding a population previously disregarded. As compared to other ethnic groups in America, the AANHPI population are less likely to have a consistent personal doctor and are increasingly likely to report poorer quality of care. While these are representative of the AANHPI population as a whole, metrics like insurance coverage vary greatly within this population. For example, the Mongolian population in the United States reports an uninsured rate of 2.5x the average rate for the entire AANHPI population. Combined with the discoveries regarding the AANHPI population as a whole, the need for data regarding the various Asian populations in the United States has become increasingly urgent.
All hope is not lost, however, due to the increased initiative by the federal government to tackle this issue of lacking representation in statistics for the diverse Asian population. The Biden Administration has created the White House Initiative on AANHPI to tackle these discrepancies; they have also started working with the Interagency Working group on Equitable Data in the hope to improve research on policy and measurable outcomes for these diverse communities. Furthermore, the National Science Foundataion has also increased funding for research with an emphasis to tackle this discrimination, to increase the available actionable data regarding this population. Increasing the quantity and quality of the data regarding this increasingly large and diverse segment of the American population is important to ensure the long term increase in the quality of care for this population. Further incorporating this data into broader statistical analyses will hopefully lead to actionable items that aim to target the inequalities faced by this broad population and create a more just and fair U.S. healthcare system.
Edited by: Kelly Ma
Graphic Designed by: Libby Gough