The Commission’s recommendations aim to modernize current data systems to address structural racism and advance health equity.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) National Commission to Transform Public Health Data Systems released this week several recommendations to the country, including government at all levels, business, community-based organizations, philanthropy, and others, to improve how public health data are collected, shared, and used to advance health equity and address structural racism. RWJF also announced $50 million in grantmaking toward the goal.

Recognizing the current health data systems do not effectively address structural racism and advance health equity, the 16-member Commission, comprised of a diverse group from multiple sectors, including health care, community advocacy, government, business, public health, and others, was formed to examine the systems and data needed to ensure public health information “works for all.”.

“Our country must now embrace this unprecedented time of change to create transformational innovations in our core systems and opportunity structures,” said Commission Leader Gail Christopher, D.N., executive director, National Collaborative for Health Equity, in the announcement. “Our public health system and the data upon which it is based are key to achieving health equity. When implemented, recommendations offered by these diverse commission members will help propel America forward on our course toward healing and justice.”

The RISE Summit on Social Determinants of Health

The Commission’s recommendations include:

  • Change how we tell stories about the health of people and communities through equitable data collection and interpretation to shed light on where some people are places are struggling with social determinants of health (SDoH), such as nutritious food, quality education, and stable and affordable housing.
  • Prioritize governance of our data infrastructure for an equity-centered approach, including collecting data across population groups by race, ethnicity, and geography and investing resources at the federal, state, and local levels where they most needed.
  • Ensure that public health measurement captures and addresses structural racism and other inequities by engaging community members in public health data interpretations and metrics that are community informed.

In support of the initiative, RWJF announced it will award $50 million in funding for a variety of projects striving to create a more equitable public health data infrastructure. The current project awards include an $11.5 million grant to transform local data environments; a $10 million grant for building community-academic partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities in the Gulf Coast region of the United States; and $10 million grant to advance local, state, and federal policies to promote higher quality data disaggregation. RWJF will announce additional grants in coming weeks.