April is Minority Health Month, and each Wednesday this month MUSM diversity deans are going to bring you a weekly message on a topic related to minority health. Since the coronavirus/COVID-19 has changed all our lives in a way that we never could have imagined, it seems that is a reasonable place to start.
States and cities across the USA are beginning to report race and ethnicity data for their coronavirus outcomes, and here are a few preliminary results:
- Louisiana: Black/African Americans make up 32% of the population but have accounted for 70% of COVID-19 deaths
- Michigan: Black/African Americans make up 14% of the population but have accounted for 35% of COVID-19 cases and 40% of COVID-19 deaths
- Chicago, IL: Black/African Americans make up 29% of the population but have accounted for 70% of COVID-19 deaths
- Milwaukee, WI: Black/African Americans make up 32% of the population but have accounted for 70% of COVID-19 deaths
- I have not seen any data for Georgia yet
Certain risk factors that increase the risk of severe COVID-19 infection and COVID-19 death—e.g., hypertension, obesity, diabetes—are more prevalent in the Black/African American community, and these are likely major contributing factors to the health disparities seen with the coronavirus. At the same time the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Anthony Fauci, mentioned another thing to consider. Yesterday, he mentioned that the coronavirus “shines a very bright light on the weaknesses and foibles in our society.” He also mentioned that “health disparities have always existed for the African American community,” but that the coronavirus shines a bright light on “how unacceptable that is.” He ended by saying that we really need to look at these racial/ethnic disparities.
A lot of changes in the way we view healthcare access, societal responsibility for public health, etc., will permanently change, thanks to the coronavirus. Of all the things that come out of this coronavirus ordeal, hopefully, one of them will be a more serious, systematic way in which we approach health disparities.
Bonzo Reddick (MUSM Associate Dean of Diversity & Inclusion, Savannah)
Jacob Warren (MUSM Associate Dean of Diversity & Inclusion, Macon & Columbus)
Wanda Thomas (MUSM Assistant Dean of Diversity & Inclusion, Macon)