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JMIR Public Health Surveill . Reporting and Availability of COVID-19 Demographic Data by US Health Departments (April to October 2020): Observational Study

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  • JMIR Public Health Surveill . Reporting and Availability of COVID-19 Demographic Data by US Health Departments (April to October 2020): Observational Study


    JMIR Public Health Surveill


    . 2021 Apr 6;7(4):e24288.
    doi: 10.2196/24288.
    Reporting and Availability of COVID-19 Demographic Data by US Health Departments (April to October 2020): Observational Study


    Peace Ossom-Williamson # 1 , Isaac Maximilian Williams # 1 , Kukhyoung Kim # 1 , Tiffany B Kindratt # 2



    Affiliations

    Abstract

    Background: There is an urgent need for consistent collection of demographic data on COVID-19 morbidity and mortality and sharing it with the public in open and accessible ways. Due to the lack of consistency in data reporting during the initial spread of COVID-19, the Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act was introduced into the Congress that mandates collection and reporting of demographic COVID-19 data on testing, treatments, and deaths by age, sex, race and ethnicity, primary language, socioeconomic status, disability, and county. To our knowledge, no studies have evaluated how COVID-19 demographic data have been collected before and after the introduction of this legislation.
    Objective: This study aimed to evaluate differences in reporting and public availability of COVID-19 demographic data by US state health departments and Washington, District of Columbia (DC) before (pre-Act), immediately after (post-Act), and 6 months after (6-month follow-up) the introduction of the Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act in the Congress on April 21, 2020.
    Methods: We reviewed health department websites of all 50 US states and Washington, DC (N=51). We evaluated how each state reported age, sex, and race and ethnicity data for all confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths and how they made this data available (ie, charts and tables only or combined with dashboards and machine-actionable downloadable formats) at the three timepoints.
    Results: We found statistically significant increases in the number of health departments reporting age-specific data for COVID-19 cases (P=.045) and resulting deaths (P=.002), sex-specific data for COVID-19 deaths (P=.003), and race- and ethnicity-specific data for confirmed cases (P=.003) and deaths (P=.005) post-Act and at the 6-month follow-up (P<.05 for all). The largest increases were race and ethnicity state data for confirmed cases (pre-Act: 18/51, 35%; post-Act: 31/51, 61%; 6-month follow-up: 46/51, 90%) and deaths due to COVID-19 (pre-Act: 13/51, 25%; post-Act: 25/51, 49%; and 6-month follow-up: 39/51, 76%). Although more health departments reported race and ethnicity data based on federal requirements (P<.001), over half (29/51, 56.9%) still did not report all racial and ethnic groups as per the Office of Management and Budget guidelines (pre-Act: 5/51, 10%; post-Act: 21/51, 41%; and 6-month follow-up: 27/51, 53%). The number of health departments that made COVID-19 data available for download significantly increased from 7 to 23 (P<.001) from our initial data collection (April 2020) to the 6-month follow-up, (October 2020).
    Conclusions: Although the increased demand for disaggregation has improved public reporting of demographics across health departments, an urgent need persists for the introduced legislation to be passed by the Congress for the US states to consistently collect and make characteristics of COVID-19 cases, deaths, and vaccinations available in order to allocate resources to mitigate disease spread.

    Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; age; coronavirus disease 2019; dashboards; ethnicity; health equity; open data; race; sex.

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