COVID-19 Impact on Black Individuals
Written by Claudia Ugbana
The recent pandemic is further proof of how racism and inequality affects Black individuals within the U.S.
In March 2020, the world was taken aback by the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to be a problem today. The connection between racism and the effects of the pandemic, mortality rates and the impact of infection vary and are difficult to quantify, but the correlation is undeniable.
During the early days of the pandemic, many forms of media reported that Black individuals were more likely to be infected with the coronavirus and much more likely to die from the virus than other racial groups. After a dive into the ins and outs of racial disparities surrounding the virus, it became apparent why.
Black individuals were found to have underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus as a result of social and economic issues. While most people initially thought this was as a result of biological factors, systemic racism is the primary cause.
How does systemic racism play into the coronavirus?
For decades, the American healthcare system has continuously failed Black individuals: from health insurance coverage issues to lack of readily available resources to poor health conditions to decades of abuse and illegal experimentation on Black individuals. The coronavirus pandemic proves to be no different as Black people are once again overlooked.
Social factors, including economic disadvantages and lack of access to proper health care, can all impact a person's life — this is the reality Black individuals are facing during the raging pandemic. For example, the National Data for the U.S reported that Black individuals make 59 cents for every dollar a white individual makes. The lack of financial stability in Black households has played a significant role in high death rates, as they are forced to work during a pandemic.
While socio-economic issues do play a major role in the effects of COVID-19 among Black individuals, this is not the central issue. The discrimination that occurs within the healthcare system within the U.S. is paramount.
The lack of financial stability in Black households has played a significant role in high death rates, as they are forced to work during a pandemic.
First, hospitals lack diversity among leadership personnel, affecting the patients. The large gap in the ratio of white to Black doctors in medical facilities across the country causes patient-physician relationships to remain strained as Black patients are unable to fully trust the physicians hired to treat them.
Second, low-income neighborhoods lack resources. Residential segregation policies placed decades ago continue to affect the Black individuals within these neighborhoods, as they have little to no healthcare facilities, a lack of access to comprehensive health education, and no nearby supermarkets with healthy food options.
The system further continues to discriminate against Black individuals as the research readily available to the public discounts Black individuals. For example, The Journal of Clinical Investigation reports that while African-Americans are 13% of the entire U.S. population, only 5% of patients enrolled in clinical trials related to the Food and Drug Administration approval of new drugs are African-American. This lack of diversity is also displayed in other clinical trials conducted within the U.S.
After decades of these issues listed above, the system has yet again failed Black individuals during the coronavirus pandemic. Research conducted by APM Research Lab reports that Black individuals are among the highest number of people who have lost their lives to the virus.
What is being done to prevent the continuous death of Black individuals during COVID-19?
These issues have always existed, and the American healthcare system has always had the opportunity to rectify them. The racism within our system is not a hoax, but a factual issue that continues to worsen. The U.S. has done little to resolve these issues in order to take better care of Black Americans, but government officials have the opportunity to enact real change by following these suggestions:
Acknowledge racism and discrimination. This opens up a pathway for solutions and results.
Reorder the system. Tearing down a system that holds years of discrinimation against and torture of Black individuals, while building a system that favors them instead.
Allocate healthcare benefits, education and resources to Black individuals in need.
Educate other racial groups to stop stereotyping and see Black individuals as equal to them.
These suggestions are only the beginning of a long list of solutions that could impede the growing mortality rate of Black individuals in not only this pandemic, but in healthcare crises to come.