Support to Collect Race-Based Public Health Data

Councillor King authored a letter of support for Ottawa Public Health to put in place a process to collect race-based data as related to COVID-19. 

April 27, 2020

Dr. Sarah Funnell,
Associate Medical Officer of Health
Ottawa Public Health

Dear Dr. Funnell:

COVID-19 is an unprecedented public health crisis which requires measurement to determine its impact on racialized communities.[1]   Many members of the African, Caribbean Black communities are among the most marginalized and impoverished in our City, who on a regular basis have to contend with income inequality and differential access to publicly provided resources, including healthcare.[2]

The global pandemic has brought a new set of unprecedented circumstances and challenges to these communities that have already been impacted by discriminatory and harmful economic and environmental conditions. In order to address these issues, it is essential that Ottawa Public Health introduce collection of race and socio-demographic data for use in health planning.

Advocates in the local Black community have long called for government-funded education, health and social services agencies to leverage disaggregated data in order to identify race-based disparities in health outcomes. Disaggregation is the process of looking at outcome data points, or the results of health and social services programs by subpopulation characteristics, which include race, gender, and education level, to uncover disparities in health outcome achievement and provide meaningful data on how to improve such services for all populations.[3] 

Both local community advocates and Black health experts have noted that the use of disaggregated data is necessary to ensure transparency and accountability in health planning.  In a recent dialogue with members of Ottawa’s diverse Black communities, participants called for Ottawa Public Health to create and adopt a  comprehensive strategy for the collection of socio-demographic and race-based disaggregated data in full consultation with Ottawa's Black communities during this public health emergency.[4]

Making a commitment to the disaggregation of outcomes data and the deployment of insights to address systemic barriers during this crisis would constitute a crucial step towards a permanent policy of collecting and utilizing such data at Ottawa Public Health to achieve more equitable health outcomes for Black communities and design a more equitable and effective health system overall.  Such data would provide health officials and the general public with a better understanding of how the pandemic has disproportionately impacted racialized communities. 

The mandated collection and use of socio-demographic and race-based will inform overall health system planning and resource allocation. Black health experts have noted that without such data, the inequitable experiences of marginalized populations can be dismissed as anecdotal and limit the prioritization of public health interventions in racialized communities.[5] 

In accord with those expert requests, I ask that Ottawa Public Health operationalize race-based data collection based upon 2018 Ontario Health Equity Standards by mandating the collection of race and socio-demographic data to “assess and report on the health of local populations describing the existence and impact of health inequities and identifying effective local strategies that decrease health inequities.”[6]  Based upon the same request made by Black health experts, I also ask that Ottawa Public Health include sociodemographic and race-based indicators in the Pandemic Threat Response (PANTHR) health data platform and expand data collection and reporting requirements within the integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS) to include race.[7]

The COVID-19 public health crisis demonstrates weaknesses in our social institutions and the social, economic and racial disparities that impact the most vulnerable. Because social factors, which include race and economic status are directly associated with health outcomes, it is essential that data be leveraged to quantify and address inequity, in order to ultimately improve health outcomes for African, Caribbean Black communities in Ottawa.


[1] Statement from Black Health Leaders on COVID-19’s impact on Black Communities in Ontario (

[2] Proposal for an Anti-Racism Secretariat at the City of Ottawa.

[3] Race and Data: Identifying Race-based Disparities. (

[4] Black Community Virtual Town Hall, April 25, 2020. (

[5] Black Health Leaders Respond to CMOH (

[6] Black Health Leaders Respond to CMOH (

[7] Black Health Leaders Respond to CMOH (

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