Tobacco Control State Highlights Report Shows Limitations in Existing Data and Reporting on AA and NHPIs

APPEAL commends the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for its new report, released January 25, which shows how each of the 50 states and DC is doing in implementing proven strategies that reduce tobacco use and reports state-specific data on prevalence rates by race/ethnicity. The CDC’s Tobacco Control State Highlights 2012 shows an effort to report data on Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) communities. However, what the report reveals is that there continue to be severe limitations in data on Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans.

APPEAL commends the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for its new report, released January 25, which shows how each of the 50 states and DC is doing in implementing proven strategies that reduce tobacco use and reports state-specific data on prevalence rates by race/ethnicity. The CDC’s Tobacco Control State Highlights 2012 shows an effort to report data on Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) communities. However, what the report reveals is that there continue to be severe limitations in data on Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans.

Due to a variety of reasons, data collection and reporting standards often continue to lump together over thirty Asian American ethnic groups into aggregate “Asian” and “Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander” categories. For Asian Americans, data on an aggregated “Asian” category that groups together men and women show an artificially low rate of tobacco use that masks diversity within the community and very high rates of tobacco use within some Asian American subgroups—especially among males. Another consequence of data collection methods is that sample sizes are often too small to be reliable and data cannot be reported on for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders. Some steps that could be taken to address this issue are: over-sampling for members of understudied AA and NHPI ethnic subgroups, reporting pooled data from multiple years of a study, conducting interviews in languages other than English, or sponsoring special reports on understudied groups.

“Disaggregating data into ethnic subgroups, conducting surveys in-language, and oversampling for AA and NHPIs in research studies is critical for understanding disparities in tobacco use,” said Rod Lew, executive director of APPEAL. “Without accurate data on specific AA and NHPI ethnic subgroups, the ability to fund, develop and implement culturally tailored tobacco control programs are severely limited.”

When reports cite aggregated measures of tobacco use for AAs and NHPIs, it makes it seem like tobacco is not a problem in the community. As a result, policymakers do not prioritize segments of the AA and NHPI who are disproportionately impacted by tobacco. APPEAL calls for accurate data collection on diverse communities as a step to eliminating health disparities.

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