The second in our National Minority Health Month blog series.

In late March, the CMS Office of Minority Health released the Mapping Medicare Disparities (MMD) tool, an interactive map that displays differences in chronic disease prevalence and outcomes among Medicare beneficiaries. The tool uses Medicare claims data to present geographic differences down to the county level, searchable by parameters of sex, age, dual eligibility status, and race and ethnicity. This powerful resource can show measures of disease prevalence, Medicare spending, hospital and emergency department utilization, readmission rates, mortality rates and other health outcome measures for up to 18 chronic conditions. Users can compare outcomes between counties, racial and ethnic groups, and in comparison to national and state averages.

I decided to take the MMD Tool for a spin and checked out some of the data from the Boston area. I looked at how Black and White women in Suffolk County compared in terms of diabetes prevalence and emergency department visits. With a few clicks, I found the disturbing, but all too familiar, statistics: in 2014, 22 percent of White women enrolled in Medicare fee-for-service in the county had diabetes compared to 40 percent of Black women. And, the rates of emergency department visits among Black women were 22 percent higher than for White women.

Aside from confirming what we know – that people from racial and ethnic minority communities experience real and significant health disparities – the MMD Tool will help policymakers, researchers, advocates and consumers better understand the nature of these disparities. Most importantly, it can aid in decision-making around how to allocate resources to most effectively improve health equity, a priority area for Community Catalyst’s Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation. Specifically, as we change the way we deliver and pay for care, this treasure trove of data will help us custom build new programs in order to ensure disparities do no persist or worsen in the process.

We encourage Hub readers to take the MMD Tool for a spin!

Please watch this space throughout April as we continue our Minority Health Month blog series.