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2020 census: An accurately-counted New York is a healthier New York

Undercounting during the 2020 census would have consequences for New York’s communities.

Get ready to be counted: The 2020 census is almost here.

Census participation is critically important, as an undercount could have dramatic consequences on all who live in New York.

A lack of participation would impact New York at the national and local levels.

New York currently has 27 representatives in the U.S. House, but since the 2010 census, the state population has decreased. New York may already lose up to two congressional seats after the census is complete — undercounting would only make that more likely. New Yorkers would have fewer representatives in Congress working on their behalf.

Federal funding is also at stake. Federal funds help support a variety of programs that impact New Yorkers’ health and well-being, including those related to health insurance coverage, food security, housing, child care and social services.

New York’s communities cannot afford to lose federal funding due to miscounting. Appropriately-funded programs lead to healthier communities; undercounting puts that funding at-risk.

We must do all we can to prevent an undercount. This requires us to identify those least likely to participate, and encourage them to do so.

Some populations are hard to count. Recent events will exacerbate the challenge.

The Census Bureau considers a census tract “hard to count” if it had a self-response rate in the bottom 20% nationally during the previous census. The hard-to-count population often includes people of color, young children, those with low incomes, those with limited Internet access or use, those who rent and/or those who are foreign-born.

In June, the Supreme Court blocked an attempt by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Critics feared the addition of a question asking “Is this person a citizen of the United States” would decrease participation from households with immigrants, including those who are citizens.

While the question wasn’t added, some are concerned the citizenship question fight itself may have caused undocumented individuals (already hard to count) to become more suspicious or fearful of census participation.

2020 will also be the first year that the census will be mostly completed online. Despite having advantages, this poses risks in the forms of cybersecurity, access to technology and lack of broadband in rural areas.

HANYS and hospitals leaders are helping drive census participation.

HANYS has developed an interactive tool to help hospital leaders and others interested in supporting the census explore hard-to-count populations in New York’s communities.

Hospitals and health systems throughout New York recognize the critical importance of an accurate census count. As trusted community leaders, they have opportunities to reach patients from hard-to-count populations. In the months ahead, they’ll work to take advantage of these opportunities, educating patients about the importance of an accurate count and dispelling fears about participation.

Every person is a potential patient. It’s critically important that we know how many people reside in New York so that we have the resources to support their needs – health-related and otherwise.