Public Health Committee
March 3, 2021
Presented By: Kathleen Callahan, MSW

Dear Honorable Chairpersons Daugherty Abrams and Steinberg, Ranking Members Hwang, Somers, and Petit, Vice Chairs Anwar, Kushner, and Gilchrest, and all other Members of the Public Health Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly:

My name is Kathleen Callahan, a resident of Stratford, and the Community Programming and Development Lead at the Connecticut Women’s Consortium in Hamden. I am also the chair of the National Association of Social Workers Connecticut Chapter’s Education and Legislative Action Network (NASW/CT ELAN). I am testifying on behalf of the chapter which represents over 2,300 members. We call upon the Public Health Committee to support HB-6424: An Act Revising Data Collection Requirements for Health Care Providers Connecting to the State-Wide Health Information Exchange.
The legislative agenda of NASW/CT emphasizes advancing racial, economic, and social justice by promoting anti-racist policies and culturally responsive practices in all aspects of community life, including equitable access to health services. Additionally, NASW/CT supports legislation that specifically promotes elimination of inequities and disparities. We believe the collection of race, ethnicity, and language (REL) data is critical to identify and evaluate health disparities in access, treatment, and outcomes, inform targeted interventions, and support systemic change that addresses the issues and ensures health equity for all residents.

While health data defines Connecticut as one of the country’s healthiest states, a January 2020 report commissioned by the Connecticut Health Foundation highlights major race and ethnicity disparities whereby people of color are more likely living in poor health and – for black residents – dying younger.1 Socioeconomic factors play a role with accessibility but when analyzing the outcomes, the report also implicates disparate treatment within the care system as well as the physiological impact of racial trauma.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened this health divide with people of color in Connecticut bearing a disproportionate burden of illness and death. Race, ethnicity, and age data are necessary during this time to ensure that resources are targeted to the hardest hit communities; considering data analysis to define “high risk” individual can address inequities. As the pandemic continues, data-driven decisions about the distribution of testing, contact tracing, and vaccine resources will be key in mitigating its toll.
Currently, there are no standards for the collection of health equity data across state agencies and this presents not only a barrier to broader utilization but diminishes the impact of the data due to inability to compare across and combine from multiple sources.2 This bill will require use of a standardized a set of race, ethnicity, and language categories so that self-reported REL data can be shared and matched across systems.

As the Connecticut chapter for NASW National, it is important to note that this bill aligns with recommendations from in their recently released Recommendations to the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress3 that calls for maintaining “accurate, complete race and ethnicity data to monitor disparities in care” and implement solutions to reduce these inequities. Their recommendations also include accessibility, transparency, and standardized across agencies. We fully support the inclusion of language collection as necessary to ensure equitable access to care and prevent discrimination based on national origin or limited English proficiency (LEP). Knowledge of LEP supports our goal of promoting culturally responsive practices.

Social workers are diverse, educated professionals with multiple skills along a broad continuum of practice, individual (micro), community (mezzo), and system (macro) levels. We consistently leverage data to inform interventions and evaluate outcomes; clear, coordinated guidance on collection, collaboration, and utilization of the Health Information Exchange brings the potential for system-wide progress. To advance racial, economic, and social equity and justice by promoting anti-racist policies, we must be able to evaluate our progress.

Of high importance to social workers, an individual’s healthcare data will remain private, protected, and confidential while the addition of REL data collection will help identify macro-level trends that are essential to understanding and eliminating inequities and disparities. In closing, NASW-CT urges the committee to vote in favor of HB-6424: An Act Revising Data Collection Requirements for Health Care Providers Connecting to the State-Wide Health Information Exchange.

1 Becker, A. L. (2020, January). Health Disparities in Connecticut: Causes, Effects, and What We Can Do. Connecticut Health Foundation: Hartford. Retrieved from https://www.cthealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Health-disparities-in-Connecticut.pdf.

2 Institute of Medicine. (2009). Race, Ethnicity, and Language Data: Standardization for Health Care Quality Improvement. National Academies Press: Washington, DC.
Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/read/12696/chapter/1.

3 National Association of Social Workers. (2021). 2021 Blueprint of Federal Social Policy Priorities. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=KPdZqqY60t4%3D&portalid=0.

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