This final week of Minority Health Month, let’s focus on the concept of intersectionality and the ways in which we see it playing out with COVID-19.
Intersectionality focuses on the ways in which we are all made of multiple identities – some of which place us at increased risk for health inequities, and others that decrease that risk. For example, a rural Caucasian woman has elements of her identity associated with marginalization and discrimination (e.g., being a woman), as well as elements associated with relative advantage (e.g., being Caucasian). In the same way, an urban African-American man has a complex intersection of identities that impact health outcomes in differing ways. Inequities are not an “either/or” proposition – each person has a combination of identities that intersect to form the whole.
In the case of COVID-19, we see this playing out in Georgia in strong ways. The highest attack rates in Georgia have not been in metro Atlanta; rather, they have been in rural Southwest Georgia clustered around Albany (Dougherty County). At the same time, we know that this portion of the state has a very high minority population, with 75% of Dougherty County’s population being African American or Hispanic (and surrounding counties having similarly high minority representation). We also now know that more than half of all cases in Georgia with known race/ethnicity are African American, far exceeding their representation in the population. It is clear that the pandemic in Georgia is exerting inequities on both our rural and minority populations.
As we all work to meet the healthcare needs of rural and underserved Georgia, it’s important to remember that these populations are not mutually exclusive. Using an intersectional lens can help us all make sure we are supporting minority health efforts across the spectrum of diversity.
We hope you have enjoyed the Minority Health Month series – as always, we are here to help ensure a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment within the School. Let us know how we can be of assistance during these trying times and beyond.
Mercer University School of Medicine Diversity Deans are:
Jacob Warren (Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Macon and Columbus)
Bonzo Reddick (Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Savannah)
Wanda Thomas (Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Macon)