Obstruction of Justice: Data Barriers to Achieving Health Equity
Racial health disparities have long been established in the U.S. due to a long history of structural racism and economic inequity. The COVID-19 pandemic has only brought these inequities to the fore. While the U.S. demographic data infrastructure has allowed us to be aware of these disparities, at each turn it has taken elected officials, like Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley requesting transparency, in order for the evidence to be made public. But what happens when the government is in fact, against transparency around racial health disparities? In this presentation, I discuss the case of France, where a universalist approach, or in other words, colorblind policy, prohibits agencies from collecting racial demographic information in census forms. This colorblind approach to demography neuters the country’s ability to target otherwise established disparities, and weakens its attempt at fighting COVID-19. I argue that ultimately, French universalism in fact, goes against the country’s own motto, “Liberté-Egalité-Fratenité” (Freedom, Equality, Fraternity).
Max Jordan Nguemeni Tiako is a 4th year medical student at the Yale School of Medicine. He grew up in Yaounde, Cameroon. He earned a B.S. in civil and environmental engineering from Howard University, and a Masters in Bioengineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. His research interests include cardiovascular health, addiction medicine and the built environment’s impact on health. He is currently spending his research year as a fellow in the Center for Emergency Care and Policy Research at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
He writes about racism in medical education in the medical student magazine “In Training” in his column “White Coat and a Hoodie.” He is the host of a podcast focusing on health disparities called “Flip The Script.” In his spare time, Max enjoys playing tennis.