BHA Perspective - COVID-19 Health Disparities
As COVID-19 continues, more data shows that racial minorities bear the greater burden of disease.
Health Disparities in the U.S.
The United States has been a leader of innovation in the medical technology and pharmaceutical realms. These have substantially improved American quality of life. This country is home to many of the best hospitals in the world, staffed with highly-trained doctors and surgeons. Despite these advantages, the United States healthcare system is notorious for its disparities. Specifically, health disparities, or differences in outcomes for health conditions, and healthcare disparities, which refer to differences in access, availability, and quality of services, mean that many Americans face disproportionate burdens. These disparities exist among specific segments of the population, such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexuality, and gender. Some examples include:
- People who live in urban areas, including many predominantly Black communities, face higher exposure to air pollution.
- Obesity affects the Black and Hispanic community disproportionately, causing higher rates of diabetes and coronary heart disease.
- People in the LGBT community are often denied their civil and human rights and commonly face discrimination in the healthcare system. As a result, the LGBT community may not have access to vital health services.
- Native Americans have a life expectancy that is 5.5 years less than the general U.S population due to disproportionate poverty and inadequate education.
COVID-19 Exacerbates Health Disparities
As COVID-19 continues, more data shows that racial minorities bear the greater burden of disease. According to a recent CDC report, 33% of COVID-19 hospitalizations involved Black Americans, even though Black Americans only account for 18% of the community. The report also showed that 8% of the COVID-19 hospitalizations were for Hispanic people, who only account for 14% of the community. Many such racial disparities are caused by socioeconomic and geographic differences. For example, people of color are more likely to live in densely populated communities farther from hospitals and essential stores.
These disparities have always existed, but COVID-19 has put them in the spotlight. With more people attuned to public health, now is the time to invest in an equitable, sustainable healthcare system. As individuals, and in our communities, we have opportunities to address these health disparities by doing the following:
- Overcoming language barriers and building partnerships with community organizations to improve access to healthcare facilities in racial and ethnic minority communities.
- Encouraging businesses to offer services, such as delivery of groceries and essential goods, in these communities to make it easier to follow social distancing requirements.
- Providing credible, evidence-based information about COVID-19 to help stop misinformation and false information on the internet.
- Educating healthcare workers about health disparities to help reduce the cultural barriers to healthcare.
Black Lives Matter
Across the country, Black Lives Matter activists are calling attention to the systemic inequality that exists in the United States. Health and healthcare disparities are examples of that inequality. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers has galvanized the nation's attention on not just this heinous incident, but upon a whole range of social and economic injustices that still persist and simply should not exist. Better Health Advisors believe that Black Lives Matter. We remain committed to doing our part to improve the lives and futures of all Americans, regardless of race, creed, or religion. “Health” is our middle name, and that includes individual health, family health, community health and yes, the health of our nation. It encompasses not just physical and mental health, but spiritual health as well. For all of us to achieve and maintain our optimal individual and collective health, we need to pull together, look out for each other, and be fully engaged in that process. Over the coming days, let's all think about how we can make a meaningful difference in the health of our nation. There is undeniably a lot of work to be done, and it's going to take everyone working in their own way to help make that happen. Better Health Advisors looks forward to joining all of you in this critical endeavor.