Health Forward urges Kansas and Missouri to enhance COVID-19 race and ethnicity data

Kansas City, MO — El Centro, Health Forward Foundation, and the Urban League of Greater Kansas City have joined with more than 75 partners across Kansas and Missouri to urge both states to prioritize the collection and public dissemination of COVID-19 testing rates and results, contact tracing, hospitalization, and mortality rates – all disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and ZIP code.

Initial reports suggest alarming rates of infection and death among people of color, but the data are incomplete. As many as 30-50% of COVID-19 case data lacks information about patients’ race, ethnicity, or the communities in which they reside.

Without comprehensive, accurate, and transparent facts, Kansas and Missouri lack the information essential to effectively target surveillance, mitigation, and treatment efforts. Incomplete data also inhibits the ability to address the long-term health and economic recovery of our states.

“These data are essential to understanding the unique challenges and inequities facing communities of color. We applaud Governor Kelly’s and Governor Parson’s administrations for sharing the COVID-19 race and ethnicity data that’s available,” said Qiana Thomason, president and CEO of Health Forward Foundation. “As we move forward, our urge is that they use their influence to ensure that equity becomes systematized and structured into the data framework of our regional health care ecosystem, starting with COVID-19 data. In doing so, a foundation is laid for health justice which all stakeholders can build upon so equity is centered in our bi-state recovery plan.”

Based on available local race and ethnicity data, black and Latino residents comprise 55% of the confirmed cases in Kansas City, Missouri, but represent 39% of the city. In Johnson County, 11% of confirmed cases are black residents, while black residents comprise 4% of the county. While black residents make up 22.5% of Wyandotte County’s population, more than half of all positive tests and more than two-thirds of COVID-19 deaths come from this population.

The data on Hispanic populations in Wyandotte County represents a converse problem of inaccurate or incomplete data collection. While 28% of the county’s population is Hispanic, only 15% of positive cases are among Hispanic community members. The Unified Government Public Health Department suspects that this does not reflect a lower proportion of COVID-19 illness, but rather a lower proportion of Hispanic residents being tested for COVID-19.

“Well-documented structural health inequities make communities of color disproportionately vulnerable and susceptible to poor health outcomes,” said Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City. “Knowing race, ethnicity, and ZIP code is critical to quantifying and deploying necessary resources to the individuals and communities where COVID-19 is having concentrated impact. It provides us a clear picture of the issue to ensure existing social, economic, and racial inequities are not exacerbated by this pandemic.”

The letter asks Governor Laura Kelly and Governor Mike Parson to ensure that state and local health departments, public and private health care institutions, and public and private laboratories standardize, collect, and immediately share COVID-19 race, ethnicity, and ZIP code data with their respective departments of health, to enhance the data their administrations are publicly reporting.

Supporting organizations that signed onto the letter include:

ACLU of KansasKansas/Missouri Dream Alliance
Alliance for a Healthy KansasKauffman Foundation
Bionexus KCKC Care Health Center
Black Chamber of CommerceKansas City, Missouri, Health Department
Black Excellence KCLatino Health for all Coalition 
Black Health Care CoalitionLISC
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas CityMid-America Regional Council
BlaqoutMattie Rhodes Center
Central Avenue Betterment AssociationMental Health Association of the Heartland
Children’s Services Fund of Jackson CountyMetro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity (MORE2)
City of Kansas City, Missouri, City CouncilMetro Council of Community Behavioral Health Centers
Civic Council of Greater Kansas CityMissouri Budget Project
Community Health Council of Wyandotte CountyMissouri Health Care for All 
Community Housing of Wyandotte CountyMissouri Primary Care Association
Community Care Network of KansasMissouri Jobs with Justice
Community Health Center of Southeast KansasMissouri Legislative Black Caucus
Compass Health NetworkREACH Healthcare Foundation 
Comprehensive Mental Health ServicesReDiscover Mental Health
Full Employment CouncilSamuel U. Rodgers Health Center
Greater Kansas City Chamber of CommerceSharon Lee Family Health Center
Greater Kansas City Community Foundation Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet
Guadalupe CentersSouthern Christian Leadership
Hall Family FoundationConference
Health Care Collaborative of Rural MissouriStreet Medicine KC
Health Partnership ClinicSwope Health
Heartland Chamber of CommerceThe Seed House – La Casa de la Semilla
Hispanic Chamber of CommerceTopeka Center for Peace and Justice
Greater Kansas City Hispanic Development FundTri-County Mental Health Services
Office of Hispanic Ministries – Archdiocese of Kansas City, KansasUnited Community Services of Johnson County
Jackson County Community Mental Health FundUnified Government of Wyandotte County Public Health Department
Johnson County Department of Health and EnvironmentUnited Methodist Health Ministry Fund
JUNTOS Center for Advancing Latino HealthUnited Way of Greater Kansas City
Kansas Action for ChildrenUrban Neighborhood Initiative
Kansas AppleseedUrban Summit
Kansas Health InstituteUzazi Village
Kansas City, Kansas, Chapter of the NAACPVibrant Health
Kansas City Medical SocietyWyandot Behavioral Health Network
Kansas City Medical Society FoundationWyandotte Health Foundation
Kansas City, Missouri, Chapter of the NAACP