PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— Coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 112,000 Americans. Since the pandemic began, public health experts say Black Americans nationwide have died at an alarming rate— two and a half times that of whites and Asians. More on the disparities, and what some experts say needs to happen to protect those who are most vulnerable
As the number of COVID patients continues to tick upwards, experts say it’s clear— the virus is taking a toll on Black Americans.
Adam Milam, MD, PhD, of Cedars-Sinai told Ivanhoe, “We’ve been putting band aids on a lot of these issues, but not addressing the core issues.”
Dr. Milam detailed COVID disparities in a newly published article in the journal, Health Equity. For example, Dr. Milam says in Michigan alone, African Americans are 14 percent of the population, but account for more than forty percent of deaths. One reason for the disparity— Black Americans have a higher incidence of other health conditions.
“African Americans have a higher prevalence of diabetes, higher prevalence of high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease— all of those are risk factors for COVID-19,” Dr. Milam elaborated.
Researchers say that’s just a part of a much broader picture.
Noble Maseru, PhD, of the Center for Health Equity at Pitt Public Health expressed, “Racism is not on the death certificate.”
But Maseru says pre-existing social conditions do contribute to COVID. Limited access to health care and affordable housing, undernutrition, low wages and economic insecurity. Many employees in service industries could not afford to stay home during the pandemic.
“They’re going out as part of that essential work force, and so they’re additionally exposing themselves, and they’re already vulnerable,” Maseru explained.
In the short-term Maseru advocates more testing and contact tracing in underserved communities. Long-term? Experts say adopting a federal living wage will help families close the health gaps.
Dr. Milam stated, “Now is the opportunity to address some of these issues that have been lingering for three to four decades.”
Noble Maseru says housing is also an issue driving COVID infection. In some minority communities, there are several generations or multiple families living in one home, making it easier for the virus to spread.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive & Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.
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TOPIC: COVID: HITTING BLACK AMERICANS HARD
REPORT: MB #4760
BACKGROUND: A newly identified coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has caused a worldwide pandemic of respiratory illness, called COVID-19. Symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches, sore throat, unexplained loss of taste or smell, diarrhea and headache. COVID-19 can be severe, and some cases has caused death. COVID-19 is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Diagnosis may be difficult because mild cases of COVID-19 may appear like the flu or a bad cold. A laboratory test can confirm the diagnosis. As of now, there is no specific treatment for the virus. People who have COVID-19 should be treated with supportive measures that relieve symptoms. For severe cases, there are additional options for treatment, including research drugs and therapeutics. To protect yourself from the coronavirus it’s crucial to have good hygiene, respiratory etiquette and social and physical distancing.
CORONAVIRUS RACIAL DISPARITIES: Current data suggests a disproportionate amount of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. Health differences between racial and ethnic groups are often due to economic and social conditions. In public health emergencies, these conditions can isolate people from the resources they need to prepare and respond to outbreaks. Factors include living conditions, work circumstances, underlying health conditions and barriers to getting health care. Addressing the needs of vulnerable populations in emergencies includes improving day-to-day life and harnessing the strengths of these groups.
HOW TO FIGHT CORONAVIRUS RACIAL DISPARITIES: Fair housing policies, improving employment opportunities and taking steps to mitigate economic inequality will benefit people of color in the next health emergency, but there are ways to reduce sickness and mortality in minority populations during COVID-19. There is a need for new approaches in promoting social distancing messages on social media. The messages should be translated into multiple languages in a culturally sensitive manner, and at a literacy level that allows those at risk to understand the information. The messaging should address the stigma associated with COVID-19, which prevents symptomatic people from seeking medical attention until they are dangerously ill. Making COVID-19 testing available for those who do not have primary care physicians or transportation is key. Transportation must be provided to testing sites, and the test sites need to be set up directly in community hot spots so that symptomatic individuals and their contacts can be easily tested. A key to improving the disparity is gathering more accurate race, ethnic and neighborhood-specific data and knowing who is being affected by the coronavirus and who is bearing the most burden is critical to addressing disparities in testing and treatment.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS REPORT, PLEASE CONTACT:
ALLISON HYDZAK, MEDIA RELATIONS
PITT PUBLIC HEALTH
CEDARS-SINAI MEDIA TEAM
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