Health & Fit Covid-19 Exposes America’s Racial Disparities
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(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Covid-19 rarely assaults children with the force it uses against adults, especially older people. But some kids who have been infected with the coronavirus develop a potentially fatal condition that brings fever, shock and organ failure. For some reason, this rare “” afflicts Black children at than White children.
The disparity is not confined to children. Across the U.S., Covid-19 poses a broader threat to people of African ancestry.and from several states show that Black Americans contract coronavirus at rates much higher than their share of the population. Their death rates are higher, too, especially in middle age; adjusted for age, Black death rates are those of Whites. Medicare suggest that, among elderly Americans, being Black is a Covid-19 risk factor almost as great as being over the age of 85.
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Why? The precise reasons are unknown. The link seems to be less about any inherent vulnerability than about where Black Americans live, where they work, the kind of health care they receive and the unique stresses they face. Sorting out the specific causes will require more research, and this work should be prioritized as the Covid-19 pandemic continues. Finding the answer might lower the death rate from Covid-19 and help bring the pandemic to heel. It could also shed light on other racial.
Black people’s higher susceptibility to Covid-19 could be connected to underlying health conditions. Doctors havethat people with hypertension, diabetes, asthma and heart disease are more likely to be hospitalized with Covid-19 and to suffer severe consequences, including death. Black Americans suffer from in relatively . But scientists don’t know whether the correlation between chronic conditions and Covid-19 is causal, or whether it reflects deeper vulnerabilities to all illness.
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Dr. Jerome Adams is preparing two calls to action — one on high blood pressure, the other on maternal mortality — to address racial health inequality.In an interview with Business Insider on Friday, Adams reflected on federal data released last week that found Black seniors were four times more likely than white seniors to be hospitalized due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that Latinx seniors were twice as likely to be hospitalized.
A recentfound that race predicts susceptibility to Covid-19 in the U.S. more than obesity and smoking do, and also more than poverty does. So other aspects of life shared by Black Americans could be at work — perhaps having to do with quality of health care or health insurance or chronic stress, as Christopher Knittel, the senior author of the MIT study, suggests. Perhaps long commutes, especially using public transportation, make a difference. Maybe living in places with more air pollution, as Black Americans tend to do, increases susceptibility to Covid-19, as it does for other conditions, including poor .
One recent study of pregnant womenthat the odds of their contracting Covid-19 were higher if they lived in neighborhoods where unemployment was high and households were crowded — an experience more common for people of color than for White Americans.
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There is also the possibility, supported by research, that Black Americans receive inferior health care, in part because ofby doctors and other providers. Evidence suggests that Black patients when they see Black doctors, but in a population that is Black, only are.
What’s certain is that African American vulnerability to Covid-19 is complicated. Researchers including epidemiologists, infectious-disease experts and social scientists need to dig into all the complications and possible factors in order to learn what can be done to keep all Americans healthy. The National Institutes of Health should prioritize such studies.
It would help to have better data on Covid-19 by race, as scientists andhave been demanding. To date, of Covid cases in the Centers for Disease Control database lack basic race and ethnicity data — in part because states and private laboratories have not reported the information. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has promised to mandate the reporting of more detailed demographic data, but not until Aug. 1.
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States and cities, for their part, should target testing and tracing efforts to neighborhoods and regions especially affected by the pandemic, as Anthony Fauci of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force has recommended. Thus far, communities of color have hadto Covid-19 testing than White communities have had. Increasing testing in underserved areas will work best to the extent that the public-health workforce includes people of color.
Biomedical researchers and pharmaceutical companies must ensure that Black subjects areof vaccines and treatments for Covid-19.
America’s health disparities by race and income are among the greatest in the world. Consider just a few examples. Black American women contract breast cancer at about the same rate as White women — but they are more likely to die of it. Infant mortality rates are more than twice as high for Blacks as for Whites. Black men have the lowest life expectancy of any demographic group in the U.S. America has tolerated these differences for far too long.
The country is now engaged in a far-reaching racial reckoning. A new resolve to confront injustice is taking hold. It needs make health disparities a core concern.
Editorials are written by the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board.
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