Early data has shown stark racial disparities in rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths. These racial disparities are not only seen in COVID-19, but in many chronic health conditions that are implicated as risk factors for serious complications of this novel coronavirus. Data from John Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center shows that 46 states have released racial demographics of confirmed coronavirus cases. The data can determine how to use our resources to educate patients and colleagues on those who are at risk for poor health outcomes.

According to the CDC, 34% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are African Americans, yet only 13% of the U.S. population are African American. These patterns are replicated at the state level: Missouri, Wisconsin, Louisiana, and New York to name a few. It is increasingly clear that the COVID-19 infections among people of color, are disproportionate to their share of the population.

Structural disparities are ingrained in America’s public health outcomes. Access to healthy food and adequate healthcare are key to prevention. We blame COVID-19 deaths on chronic disease, but we don’t fully recognize barriers to food supply and adequate medical care. Infectious diseases such as COVID-19 require immediate action to reduce exposure. We limit the spread of infection through stay-at-home and social distancing orders to help ease the burden on the health care system. However, the ability to stay and work at home is built into societal privilege.

Early data has shown stark racial disparities in rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths. These racial disparities are not only seen in COVID-19, but in many chronic health conditions that are implicated as risk factors for serious complications of this novel coronavirus. Data from John Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center shows that 46 states have released racial demographics of confirmed coronavirus cases. The data can determine how to use our resources to educate patients and colleagues on those who are at risk for poor health outcomes.

According to the CDC, 34% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are African Americans, yet only 13% of the U.S. population are African American. These patterns are replicated at the state level: Missouri, Wisconsin, Louisiana, and New York to name a few. It is increasingly clear that the COVID-19 infections among people of color, are disproportionate to their share of the population.

Structural disparities are ingrained in America’s public health outcomes. Access to healthy food and adequate healthcare are key to prevention. We blame COVID-19 deaths on chronic disease, but we don’t fully recognize barriers to food supply and adequate medical care. Infectious diseases such as COVID-19 require immediate action to reduce exposure. We limit the spread of infection through stay-at-home and social distancing orders to help ease the burden on the health care system. However, the ability to stay and work at home is built into societal privilege.

Not everybody can work from home: Black and Hispanic workers are much less likely to be able to telework

African Americans and Latinos are less likely to be able to work from home and more likely to be considered essential workers. According to research from the Current Populations Survey, Black workers make up 37.7% of essential employees compared to 26.9% of white workers. They are 50% more likely to work in healthcare and 40% more likely to work in hospitals. When we combine the increased exposure and the health-comorbidities, the viral burden is indeed falling on communities of color

In Naturopathic medicine, we use the “therapeutic order” to guide treatment for our patients. The first of these: remove obstacles to health by addressing barriers such as poor diet, excessive stress, toxin exposure, trauma, poor sleep, and socioeconomic stressors. Unfortunately, people of color and those of lower socioeconomic status have increased obstacles to addressing these factors. We must be socially competent providers and continue to be educated in the undeniable burden of disease on people of color

We must promote precautions to protect individuals and our essential workers as they are overrepresented by Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and poor communities.

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE: 

  • When participating in discussions regarding reopening of the economy with friends, family, and colleagues, talk about our shared need to address disparities caused by systemic racism and poverty.
  • Do what you can to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible: practice physical distancing and hand washing, stay at home as much as possible, wear masks (even cloth masks) whenever out in public, etc. This is particularly important when accessing essential services where people of color and those with low incomes work and are exposed to the public. Protect them and model this for those around you.
  • If you are a healthcare practitioner, (continue to) be mindful of systemic inequities and the social determinants of health. You may have patients who do not have the same access to care, healthy food, safe work, and all the other supports that enable healthy choices. Meet them where they are and help them work within their circumstances without blame or judgment.

BLOG POST AUTHOR

Jacquelyn Burrell is a naturopathic student currently living in San Diego, CA. She is a founding member of the Naturopathic Alliance.