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US Health Care Relies on Filipinxs While Ignoring Their Health Needs: Disguised Disparities and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Oronce CI, Adia AC, Ponce NA. US Health Care Relies on Filipinxs While Ignoring Their Health Needs: Disguised Disparities and the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA health forum. 2021 Jul 23; 2(7):doi:10.1001/jamahealthforum.2021.1489.


In the US, Filipinxs are the third largest Asian subgroup and have represented a crucial part of the country's health care workforce since the mid-20th century. Although the 2.9 million Filipinxs in the US represent about 1% of the population, approximately 1 of 4 Filipinx working adults are frontline health care workers.1 The COVID-19 pandemic has exacted a disproportionate toll on Filipinx communities in the US and on Filipinx health care workers, specifically. The absence of disaggregated race/ethnicity data for COVID-19 has masked how the pandemic has affected Filipinxs in the US. Policy makers and researchers must recognize that these disparities are not limited to COVID-19 but are a critical example of how data aggregation under a single Asian category has hidden the health needs of the Filipinx population. Missing in the Data, Missing in Policy Discussions Aggregate race/ethnicity data for COVID-19 cases and deaths mask the disproportionate burden on Asian subgroups, including Filipinxs in the US, leaving these disparities unrecognized and unaddressed. Asians comprise nearly 6% of the US population but only about 3% of COVID-19 cases and 4% of its deaths, suggesting that Asian Americans are not disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Yet a different picture has emerged for Filipinxs in Hawaii, the only state which publicly reports disaggregated Asian data: Filipinx residents comprise 16% of the population but 22% of COVID-19 deaths.2 Similar analyses are not possible nationally or in any other state. While some states may collect data on Filipinxs, these data are typically restricted and only available through public information requests. For example, Filipinxs comprise 42% of COVID-19 deaths among Asian adults (18-64 years) in California3 despite making up just 20% of the state's nonelderly Asian adult population.1 No other Asian subgroup accounted for more than 15% of deaths (Figure).3

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