Big data science: Opportunities and challenges to address minority health and health disparities in the 21st century

Xinzhi Zhang, Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, Philip E. Bourne, Emmanuel Peprah, O. Kenrik Duru, Nancy Breen, David Berrigan, Fred Wood, James S. Jackson, David W.S. Wong, Joshua Denny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Addressing minority health and health disparities has been a missing piece of the puzzle in Big Data science. This article focuses on three priority opportunities that Big Data science may offer to the reduction of health and health care disparities. One opportunity is to incorporate standardized information on demographic and social determinants in electronic health records in order to target ways to improve quality of care for the most disadvantaged populations over time. A second opportunity is to enhance public health surveillance by linking geographical variables and social determinants of health for geographically defined populations to clinical data and health outcomes. Third and most importantly, Big Data science may lead to a better understanding of the etiology of health disparities and understanding of minority health in order to guide intervention development. However, the promise of Big Data needs to be considered in light of significant challenges that threaten to widen health disparities. Care must be taken to incorporate diverse populations to realize the potential benefits. Specific recommendations include investing in data collection on small sample populations, building a diverse workforce pipeline for data science, actively seeking to reduce digital divides, developing novel ways to assure digital data privacy for small populations, and promoting widespread data sharing to benefit under-resourced minority-serving institutions and minority researchers. With deliberate efforts, Big Data presents a dramatic opportunity for reducing health disparities but without active engagement, it risks further widening them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-106
Number of pages12
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Volume27
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

Keywords

  • Big data
  • Health disparities
  • Health inequities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology

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    Zhang, X., Pérez-Stable, E. J., Bourne, P. E., Peprah, E., Duru, O. K., Breen, N., Berrigan, D., Wood, F., Jackson, J. S., Wong, D. W. S., & Denny, J. (2017). Big data science: Opportunities and challenges to address minority health and health disparities in the 21st century. Ethnicity and Disease, 27(2), 95-106. https://doi.org/10.18865/ed.27.2.95