Impact to Communities of Color

As COVID-19 began to spread around the globe and the global pandemic begin to grip the United States, we may have heard the heard “this virus doesn’t discriminate. “ However, preliminary data shows alarming trends in which COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting communities of color. For instance, a recent New York Times article highlighted that right here in Chicago, African-Americans comprise over half of COVID-19 cases and almost 75% of virus-related deaths. Even more alarming is that African-Americans comprise under a third of the overall population in Chicago. And these health disparities are not limited to Chicago. The same New York Times report goes on to point out that African-Americans comprise approximately 70% of COVID-19-related fatalities in Louisiana, while only comprising a third of the state’s total population. Health authorities in Michigan report that African-Americans comprise almost a third of positive tests and 40% of all COVID-19-related deaths, even though they comprise under 15% of the overall population. We see similar trends all over the country, and these disparities are not limited to one geographic area or region.

Underserved, at-risk, and vulnerable patients

Additionally, COVID-19 is proving especially deadly for underserved, at-risk, and vulnerable patient populations who are more likely to have underlying health conditions. Some of these more serious underlying conditions include diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular illnesses. Many of these indications are those that are prevalent in black and brown communities around America. When an individual with one or more underlying health conditions contracts COVID-19, the risk of severe illness and death is much higher. It’s incredibly devastating to see this disease target marginalized communities of color, and these can also be traced back to historical health and inequities for communities of color. Over the past decade, there’s been more data emerging that highlights that an individual’s ZIP Code is one of the most significant predictors of health. Unfortunately, we’re seeing those black and brown communities being hit hardest by the Coronavirus.

Social distancing

Recent data also indicates that social distancing is more difficult for black and brown communities. A report from the Economic Policy Institute suggested he just one in five African Americans and one in six Latinos have the structural ability to work from home.  Millions of Americans still wake up every morning, commute to work, often using public transit, and work on the front lines in close proximity with others. These include not only front-line healthcare professionals, but those who work at grocery stores, gas stations, and grocery or food delivery services. This is particularly worrisome for communities of color, as guidance from the CDC and other health authorities indicates that one of the most effective ways to avoid contracting COVID-19 is to stay at home.


And it may seem these aforementioned issues are just the tip of the iceberg. Other data suggest African-Americans face the effects of aging more rapidly than others due to many socioeconomic variables. This is particularly alarming, as COVID-19 proves to be most deadly for those elderly patient populations over 65. Other concerns include fear of detainment and deportation from many Hispanic communities. And the list goes on and on. What does this all mean in a world that has fundamentally changed over the past 60 days? First and foremost, it’s a stark reminder that any underserved community is always at the highest health risk. And this highlights the increasing emphasis on how social determinants of health impact health outcomes. We see this disease ravage those with underlying health conditions. Structural inequities such as the lack of the ability to work from home place in many communities of color at higher risk. In a post-COVID-19world, it will be crucial for the entire healthcare industry, local, state, and federal governments and community leaders to reprioritize health equity.

To further explore the influence of this alarming trend that is emerging and to learn more about diverse leadership in healthcare, please contact The Kaleidoscope Group at 312-274-9000 or fill out this get started form.

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