Ethnicity health

What is ethnicity health?

Ethnicity is often associated with race and relates to the population group a person belongs to, identifies with or is identified by, considering cultural factors including language, diet, religion, ancestry and physical features.

According to 2011 Census data, in the United Kingdom:

  • 87% of people are White (including White Irish/Traveller and Gypsy Roma and Traveller groups)
  • 13% of people belong to a Black, Asian, Mixed or Other ethnic group.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on existing healthcare inequalities, especially around the disproportionate impact on people from black and minority ethnic groups. A number of studies, including a report by Public Health England and the Lancet paper on ethnic differences, have found that those from ethnic minority groups, during wave two of the coronavirus pandemic, were more likely to test positive for COVID-19, become severely ill and die. Obesity has also been identified as a key issue and according to a study by Yates et al, those from black ethnic minorities are at most risk of worse in-hospital COVID-19 outcomes.

To better understand the health inequalities experienced by black and minority ethnic communities NHS England established the NHS Race and Health Observatory (RHO).  The RHO is an independent organisation hosted by the NHS Confederation which proactively investigates race inequality in health and social care, providing evidence-based health policy recommendations and facilitating long-term transformational change.

Factors that shape race inequality in health, including the forces of structural racism and discrimination, were explored in a report, commissioned by the Kings Fund and published by The NHS Race and Health Observatory, to help support the NHS to begin to make impactful changes.

While race and ethnicity are drivers of healthcare inequalities, other factors such as poverty, age, gender, sexuality and disability are also predicators. As such, it is important to consider how different aspects of a person’s identity overlap and how this may impact their health – this is sometimes called intersectionality.

The Health Inequalities Improvement Dashboard brings together key strategic indicators relating to health inequalities in one place to support regions, systems, primary care networks, NHS providers and local authorities to identify health inequalities impacting their communities. Covering the five priority areas for narrowing health inequalities in the 2021-22 planning guidance, it also features data relating to the five clinical areas outlined in the Core20PLUS5 approach; an approach which was developed to help the NHS drive targeted action to the most vulnerable groups, focusing specifically on the ‘Core20’ most deprived communities and those from inclusion heath groups including those from ethnic minority communities.

Those with access to the HIID can also use other tools and resources available on the platform including the priority neighbourhoods for unplanned hospitalisations dashboard, the Actionable Insights Tool and the Primary Care Networks Dashboard

Work is also happening with NHS Digital to combine hospital and primary care data sets to more fully capture ethnicity recording within patient records. This is to improve the robustness of the information available so that we can more fully understand the health inequalities experienced by those from ethnic minority groups and do something about them.

Partner organisations are also doing excellent work to address ethnic health inequalities.