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Impact of racial discrimination and income on COVID-19 health outcomes

February 22, 2022 — by Hannah Flynn

New research describes the impact of racial discrimination and income levels on COVID-19 health outcomes. Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The health effects of COVID-19 have disproportionately affected individuals belonging to low income and racially or ethnically minoritizedTrusted Source groups. Studies have shown a higher number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths among individuals belonging to Indigenous, Black, and Hispanic communities. Similarly, evidence suggests a higher risk of severe disease and mortalityTrusted Source among individuals with lower incomes.

Early in the pandemic, the factors associated with the higher rates of hospitalization and mortality among these groups were not well-understood. In other words, it was unclear whether comorbidities, social determinants, or both contributed to these worse COVID-19-related health outcomes.

One study, for example, which researchers conducted early in the pandemic, found that both comorbidities and social factors likely contributed to the higher mortality in the Black patient populations.

Dr. Ladan Golestaneh, professor of medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and the study’s lead author, told Medical News Today:

“Our study did a careful analysis of the population of the Bronx who receives their care at our health system — a health system that has invested heavily in programs that serve our community of patients.[…]. We were able to show that despite adjustment for multiple comorbidities and risk factors — including area-level poverty and use of public transportation — hospitalized Black patients died at disproportionately higher rates than did white patients.”

Noting the role of social determinants, as the study suggests, Dr. Golestaneh said, “The worse severity of illness and mortality outcomes seen in racial/ethnic minorities have to do with low socioeconomic status, barriers to adequate high quality healthcare, and residential racial segregation, the latter resulting from a deliberate historical act by the U.S. government to separate residential communities by race and disinvest from Black residential communities.”


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