County by County Blog

Project updates, commentaries, events and news about health across the nation from the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps team.

Refining racial and ethnic data for health and equity

Publication date
March 5, 2024

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR&R) shares race data to reveal unfair differences in health outcomes and social conditions that contribute to community health, such as safe and affordable housing, access to nutritious foods and livable wages.  

Race is a social construct and has no genetic meaning. The ways people are racialized has changed over time and will continue to do so. At the same time, measures of population health are important to assess, prioritize and improve the health of communities. CHR&R recognizes this important tension and makes every effort to generate data responsibly and with transparency.  

These data also make it easier to see where racism exists in inequities.  

In our ongoing effort to improve our data, strategies and resources, we have begun refining data groupings by race and ethnicity. In our 2024 Annual Data Release, we will incorporate new categories that provide an opportunity to better align with how individuals and communities self-identify. The new categories reflect changes in census and National Center for Health Statistics data for those who identify as more than one race and to offer more specific identities.  

Over time, CHR&R will include as many as 31 race categories. As a first step, we will introduce two new categories this year — Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander and “two or more races” — along with American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black and white. Hispanic or Latinx ethnicity is included in a category separate from race.  

The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sets guidelines for standard racial categories. OMB last updated and expanded the standards in 1997 and is once again revising the standards because the groups do not reflect society’s current social structure. Among the considerations: A growing number of people identify as more than one race, and current groupings hide disparities.  

CHR&R includes historical context in our data and evidence tools to highlight how policies, practices and resource allocation can shape community conditions so that everyone thrives.

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