HHS commits $90 million for data-driven approaches to reduce health disparities

Funds will aid HRSA Health Center Program-supported centers to identify and reduce health disparities

HHS announced that is it providing nearly $90 million in American Rescue Plan funding to fund new data-driven efforts for HRSA Health Center Program-supported and HRSA-designated health centers to identify and reduce health disparities.

The data collection and reporting initiative is designed to collect more and better data on social determinants of health, while also streamlining and improving data quality reporting for health centers. This program will enable health centers to tailor their efforts to improve health outcomes and advance health equity, more precisely targeting the needs of specific communities or patients.

“Health centers are vital to increasing equitable access to primary health care,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, in a statement. He added that the plan will further enable health centers to utilize data to meet the needs of their community and help reduce gaps in care.

“HRSA’s funding has supported our nation’s health centers in becoming leaders in leveraging the latest technology and data to provide high-quality care to individuals and communities who have been historically underserved,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson, in a statement. “Today’s announcement builds on this work and will help health centers modernize their data tools to improve equitable access to care and continue to best meet the needs of the communities and patients they serve.”

The funding can be used for various COVID-19 activities and for modifying, enhancing, and expanding health care services and infrastructure by improving health information technology, enhancing data collection, and supporting related staff training. These efforts will advance broader COVID-19 response, mitigation, and recovery efforts. Additionally, they will help prepare for future public health emergencies.

The enhancements that health centers may make to their infrastructure using the funds will support patient-level reporting and enable them to better identify, measure, and investigate disparities in health care use and health outcomes by race, ethnicity, age, and other important demographic factors, and to more precisely target their resources accordingly. Standardization of patient-level health data will enable the identification of populations most at risk for health disparities and will provide data to inform potential clinical interventions. Furthermore, the ability to collect, house, and report standardized patient-level health data will support health centers’ participation in critical population health surveillance activities during public health emergencies.

HRSA-supported health centers serve medically underserved populations and communities, which are often disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Health centers serve 1 in 5 people living in rural communities, and 1 in 11 people nationwide. More than 90% of HRSA-funded health center patients are individuals or families living at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and nearly 63% are racial or ethnic minorities.