Statement opposing California ballot initiative Proposition 54

The American College of Epidemiology is the professional organization dedicated to continued education and advocacy for epidemiologists in their efforts to promote good science and the public health (

Many epidemiologists dedicate their careers to the collection and analysis of data in order to monitor and understand the determinants of human health and disease. Proposition 54, a ballot initiative that will appear on the October 7, 2003 gubernatorial recall ballot in California, seeks to limit the kinds of data that can be collected. Entitled "Classification by Race, Ethnicity, Color, or National Origin (CRECNO)", Proposition 54 proposes a ban on the collection or use of data on race, ethnicity, color, or national origin by the state of California. Although there is an exemption for "otherwise lawful classification of medical research subjects and patients", the ban would adversely impact many of the data sources typically used by epidemiologists.

For example, the ban on the collection of data by race, ethnicity, color, or national origin would hamper the efforts of national cancer registries to identify and monitor trends in cancer incidence and mortality if data from the state of California were incomplete. The ban would also apply to birth and death certificates and affect such vital statistics as infant mortality rates. Indeed, the second overarching goal of Healthy People 2010, our nation's public health agenda (, is to eliminate health disparities among segments of the US population, including differences that occur by race or ethnicity. Efforts to understand and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities for many diseases, and for access to many important health care services, would be nearly impossible if racial and ethnic data were no longer available.

The American College of Epidemiology strongly opposes Proposition 54 because epidemiologists have an ethical obligation and a professional responsibility to address areas of health disparity. In order to address disparities, we need to know where the disparities lie, and this requires the collection of specific types of data, including data on race, ethnicity, color, and national origin.