Published On: 27 January 2022

The Race Equality Foundation has kicked off an innovative project to improve the recording of ethnicity and help tackle health inequalities on a wide scale.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the poor quality of ethnicity data held by public bodies, inconsistency between data sets and missing data.  At the same time, there has been a wider public debate on the collective terms used to describe communities who experience racism.

Through working directly with communities and people tasked with recording ethnicity, this project will address questions like people’s understanding of the meaning and purpose of the ethnic classifications used and their experience of being asked for or providing information about ethnic group in different settings.

The ultimate aim is to produce solutions to improve the quality of recording of ethnicity, so that this data can better contribute to addressing health inequalities.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is also working in collaboration with Wellcome to run a parallel project using ethnicity recorded in anonymised Census data to explore data quality and the impact on estimates of ethnic health disparities.

Jabeer Butt OBE, CEO of the Race Equality Foundation said: “Incomplete and poor data undermines attempts to improve health. Without the full picture, services cannot meet the needs of different communities. The time is right to take a closer look at how we record people’s ethnicity, so that the data can help address the persistent health inequalities experienced by Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

“The recording of ethnicity in order to address racial inequality has become an everyday experience since the ONS introduced the ethnic group category in the 1991 Census.  But inconsistent recording of this data by other public bodies has been holding back change. For example the failure to publish the dementia diagnosis rate by ethnicity has meant that we do not know whether Black, Asian or minority ethnic people with dementia are being reached.

“We look forward to working with Wellcome and with the parallel project being led by the ONS, to make real change to health inequalities in the UK.”

The Race Equality Foundation will interview different communities and health and care workers to gain insights as to how and why people’s own ethnic group identification and other people’s perceptions of them differ. Previous Race Equality Foundation research shows the key role played by care workers’ understanding of recording ethnicity – when implemented without training and guidance, this often led to workers’ own ‘sensitivities’ impacting their willingness and ability to collect ethnicity-based information.

The project will run from January 2022 until June 2022.


Notes to editors

1.      Press contact: / 07593 454182

2.      About the Race Equality Foundation

The Race Equality Foundation is a national charity tackling racial inequality across public services to improve the lives of Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. Its areas of work cover health and care, housing, children and families, employment, communities and more.

3.      About Wellcome

The Wellcome Trust supports science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone. They support discovery research into life, health and wellbeing, and are taking on three worldwide health challenges: mental health, global heating and infectious diseases.

4.      About the ONS

The ONS is the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics and the recognised national statistical institute of the UK, covering topics including the economy, population, public health and climate change.