Ethnicity Data

45 minute recording of presentations given at a webinar on the importance of ethnicity data, including presentations from Suffolk Black Community Forum, the Office for National Statistics (Census 2021), Suffolk and north east Essex Integrated Care System (health services), Public Health Suffolk.

About the webinar

The focus of the webinar is on the importance of collecting ethnicity data. We often have incomplete data on ethnicity and its important to note there are plenty of barriers and challenges including the current ethnicity data recording systems and fears within our community about what the data is used for.

National organisations and our community have called for better ethnicity recording so as part of our commitment following our annual public health report, this webinar is intended to start the conversation on improving the way we collect ethnicity data moving forwards.



Presentation 1 - Inclusive language

Shirley Powell -Health and Wellbeing Lead for Suffolk Black Community Forum and Founder of Your Life in Your Hands 

As the Health and Wellbeing Lead, Shirley works closely with the SBCF and we offer a support network of health and wellbeing professionals and individuals to our local  Caribbean and African community to address our priorities which includes addressing  health inequalities specific to the black community in Suffolk. Shirley also works in partnership with the CCG and Public  Health and other organisations, to ensure that their strategic health plans for Suffolk includes  quality data pertaining to Black people around health inequalities.

Imani Sorhaindo - Heritage and Culture Lead for Suffolk Black Community Forum and Director of KMT Rising Ltd

Imani leads on Heritage and Culture to ensure there is correct and positive representation of Black people locally in media and communications, and works closely with a range of stakeholders such as SCC The Hold, ITV, the prisons, ISCRE etc. Her work as a director of her holistic health company brings her into contact with many individuals and groups in the community who want to improve their health and well-being with complementary approaches to heath care. Imani works in partnership with the Caribbean and African Community Health Support Forum on a range of projects, including the Unity Befriending project, online exercise and online healthy eating programmes to address health inequalities in the black community.

Presentation 2 - Why Ethnicity Data is important & how it is used to inform decisions

Tim Buttle - Census Engagement Manager 2021 

Tim is currently working for the ONS as a Census Engagement Manager during 2021, prior to this assignment he was a senior Operational Manager working in financial services. He is used to working with large and diverse workforces as well as engaging with minority groups.

Louise Carsen - Census Engagement Manager 2021 

Louise Carsen is employed by the Office of National Statistics as Census Engagement Manager for West Suffolk & East Cambridgeshire. This involves working closely with Councils and diverse communities to research, develop, agree and implement a local engagement plan to achieve a successful Census 2021 for West Suffolk & East Cambridgeshire. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the data Census 2021 subsequently provides is representative of everyone. Understanding the area and engaging with diverse groups of the population, especially groups that need additional support or encouragement to take part is a major facet of the role.

Presentation 3 - Why data is important locally and how it helps to reduce health inequalities

David Akinsanya - Diversity Lead (Suffolk and North East Essex ICS)

David is the Diversity Lead for Suffolk and North East Essex ICS and is passionate about reducing health inequalities and ensuring we continually improve services so our community can access to all health and social care services. 

Presentation 4 - Data Collection in Suffolk – How do we collect our data?

Tristan Childs - Researcher, Public Health Suffolk 

Tristan is an experienced researcher who works in the analytical team at Public Health Suffolk. Tristan believes that all research is only as good as the data it’s based on; with that in mind he has a keen interest in data collection practices

Molly Thomas-Meyer - Public Health Consultant, Public Health Suffolk

Molly is a public health doctor at Suffolk County Council. She worked on the Annual Public Health Report looking at inequalities in the wake of Covid-19. More than ever before, good data is key to making things fairer, and ensuring services fit the needs of our communities – not the other way around! 

These are the 18 categories known as the recommended categories and standard for England. People may not feel the groups adequately represent them or that they don’t relate to the categories. We recommend you consider the two step process - outlined in our resources and tips section. 
1. English/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish/British
2. Irish
3. Gypsy or Irish Traveller
4. Any other White background
Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups
5. White and Black Caribbean
6. White and Black African
7. White and Asian
8. Any other Mixed/Multiple ethnic background,
Asian/Asian British
9. Indian
10. Pakistani
11. Bangladeshi
12. Chinese
13. Any other Asian background
Black/ African/Caribbean/Black British
14. African
15. Caribbean
16. Any other Black/African/Caribbean background
Other ethnic group
17. Arab - Other ethnic group: Arab
18. Any other ethnic group, please describe

1. Prompt sheet on collecting ethnicity data

Recommended phrase: Which ethnicity best describes you?

The prompt sheet has been co-designed with members of the community to increase recording of ethnicity in our vaccination programme. The categories used are the categories that are currently used on the NHS record and were needed to align to the recording system. The prompt sheet also gives explanations on what the data is used for and why we are collecting this data to help support and break down the barriers and fears on recording ethnicity data. 

We recommend where possible you use the national standard categories in your prompt sheet outlined in presentation 4 of the webinar and in the guide document below. 


IMPORTANT TIP: Please make sure you let people know what there data is going to be used for.

2. Data Recording Template - Two step process

The data recording template is a simple excel spreadsheet which you can adopt to start thinking about how you collect ethnicity data. Please feel free to adapt the spreadsheet to meet your organisations needs and to include further fields. The two step process has been developed to meet both the national requirements for statutory services but also include how the community would like their ethnicity recorded. 


IMPORTANT TIP: Please make sure you keep any data in a secure location. GUIDE COMING SOON!

3. Public Health Language and Terminology Guide

The Public Health Language and Terminology Guide is designed to use consistent language when writing and communicating about health and wellbeing. The guide was built from input given by the whole Public Health Suffolk team, and reviewed by colleagues at Healthwatch Suffolk. 

Link: Public Health Language and Terminology Guide

IMPORTANT TIP: Please make sure the language you use in your organisations is inclusive as Shirley and Imani shared. 

Question 1:

Suffolk GP Federation: "Where are the main sources of available published diversity data pertaining to health held pertaining to Suffolk recently? Are there some web links or sites people can recommend?"


Tristan's response:

Data on ethnicity to date is limited. In the first instance, a website we would recommend is the ethnicity facts and figures service which will include information on health and ethnicity. The main caveat with ethnicity data is that it’s most accurate immediately after the census is taken (every 10 years). After that first year this information is often based on surveys and estimates,  and therefore may not be as accurate as the Census is only collected every 10 years. The most up to date Census data at the moment is from 2011, until the 2021 data is published.  

Tim's response: 

The Suffolk Observatory is a good resource for data - please note the census 2021 data will not be included in this dataset until the year 2022. Nomis is also another information source which is based on the current 2011 census but can be broken down into small geographical areas. This too will be updated with the 2021 census date in due course. 

David's and Molly's response: 

As part of the vaccination programme, we are taking the opportunity to collect ethnicity data to give an up to date picture of Suffolk. We hope with your help and your organisation’s involvement, we can collect this data on a more regular basis to ensure we understand our diverse community and to reduce the inequalities in our community. 

Question 2: 

Healthwatch Suffolk: "When organisations want a 'representative group' to consult or engage with in order to improve health and care services... And say you are invited to represent a whole ethnicity, how does this feel? because we are all individuals... What does this 'being a representative' mean to you?"


Imani's response:

It's absolutely key that agencies use representatives who are truly engaged in an impartial way supporting their communities, to ensure that they have consulted them and are able to feedback with knowledge and impartiality what the community sound bites are. Individuality is also important because African Portuguese, Mixed Heritage, Caribbean people may have totally different cultural needs, despite the health disparities being very similar. I personally play a role as a representative, however as part of a Forum we are confidently able to share collective views and not personal ones. This is critical. Services may often just want to tick a box and say they have engaged with us, but its about who have they truly engaged with. For me, we spend a lot of time engaging our communities in discussions, awareness raising and information sharing, so that they can be empowered to take part in consultations without feeling silent or powerless in what can be quite a daunting process. 

Shirley's response:

I echo what Imani says. Being a representative in this group and as a Health and Wellbeing Lead in enables me to share my experiences as a health care professional and be able to empower others to also address their concerns around health inequalities locally.

Question 3:

Anonymous: "How do you respond to people who are very reluctant to provide their ethnicity data?"


We think it’s important to state why you are collecting this information because we know it can feel a very personal and difficult question. It can also feel difficult to ask the questions and if that’s the case you can find suggestions for starting that conversation outlined on the prompt sheet in our resources section. Collecting ethnicity data is not mandatory but without this data we cannot truly understand the health inequalities that exist locally. We hope people will consider these reasons to share the information, but if individuals do not want to record ethnicity, then that is their choice. 

Question 4: 

Anonymous: "How do we go about engaging with local communities to collect ethnicity data?"


We would recommend as a starting point you engage with those who already access your service on their thoughts and feedback on how you collect ethnicity data. You can do this through consultations, feedback forms or opportunistic recording. To broaden your engagement, we recommend you get in touch with local forums. Please see the answer to question 2 for further guidance. 

We are putting together a local learning network on sharing good practice. If your organisation would like to be part of this network, please let us know by filling in the second part of our survey form. 

Link: Survey form

Question 5: 

Anonymous: "How do you define ethnicity?" 


Ethnicity is as one of the ways we identity ourselves and is described as a group of people with whom you have something in common, like a language or culture. We think this definition is a bit wordy! So we would ask you to engage with your local community to come up with a definition that is meaningful. Perhaps we could develop one that works for us in Suffolk. Let us know your thoughts by posting these on social media and using the hashtag #YourHealthySuffolk

Let us know your feedback by completing this survey form

We hope in time to share some examples of how ethnicity data has been used in local services to inform good practice. 

To join our learning network please email  

There are three key elements when thinking about collecting ethnicity data;

1. To ensure the language you use on ethnicity is inclusive especially when asking questions on ethnicity.

2. Actively engage with the communities and individuals you work with on how you collect ethnicity data

3. To start to think about how you collect ethnicity data in your organisation and to consider a two-step approach