African Americans have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, with recent evidence showing that more members of the black community may be dying from coronavirus in the United States than other ethnic groups. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, African Americans represent 13.4 percent of the American population, yet counties with higher populations of black people account for over half of all COVID-19 cases and almost 60 percent of deaths.
Various social determinants of health such as a person’s living and working conditions, as well as the quality of their access to health care and other resources like safe housing, healthy food, employment, and education have elevated black communities’ risk for contracting COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, the black community had already been experiencing higher levels of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and other health conditions which magnified the racial disparities of COVID-19 by putting them in a high-risk category.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke at a press conference in April regarding the impact of COVID-19 on African Americans, pointing out that even after the pandemic is over, there will still be health disparities in the African American community that need to be addressed. Due to years of housing discrimination, generations of African Americans have been forced to live in densely populated neighborhoods that don’t have access to healthy food options and are further away from medical facilities. The disparity in access to health care further affects individuals who, due to a history of racial barriers, work in low-income roles that don’t provide health insurance or benefits. Many black Americans also lack trust in the medical system and feel unheard by the medical professionals that treat them.
In order to reduce health disparities while improving health outcomes for all racial groups, the underlying social determinants of health that impact the black community need to be fixed. These include prioritizing resources for medical organizations that serve minority populations, leveraging effective health education and promotion programs in the community, and other factors that contribute to better health and wellness.
Within Health believes in equal access to healthcare for everyone. As a society, we still have a long way to go when it comes to reducing racial disparities in health care, but if we all contribute resources and do what we can to help, this goal can be achieved much sooner than we think.